An article posted on Bike Europe about an alleged patent violation and frame recall by Cervélo has worried many fans, owners and dealers. But company principal Gerard Vroomen says it's "much ado about nothing" and that the website "got most of the facts wrong".
Bike Europe claim that the European Patent Office has ruled that Cervélo's pre-2011 RS, R3, and R3 SL frame designs violate German patents owned by Canyon Bicycles GmbH. These apparently pertain to some of the tube shapes commonly used by both brands.
Cervélo's former German distributors TriDynamic GmbH today announced a recall of "all frames and wheels series Cervélo RS, R3 and R3 SL which were put on the market since 9 January 2008”, and requested that dealers contact them to arrange for return shipment.
However, Cervélo say that, while Canyon's claims were upheld by a district court in Düsseldorf in September – a ruling they are appealing – the European Patent Office hearing hasn't even happened yet (it's apparently scheduled for 24 November), the patent is invalid, and dealers have no obligation to comply with the recall.
The situation has been clouded by the soured business relationship between Cervélo and TriDynamic. Speaking to Bike Europe, Peter Seyberth, general manager of TriDynamic, hit out at the Canadian company, saying: “Particularly unpleasant for us is that we've contributed to these potential patent infringements, because we supplied two frames of Canyon on request by Cervélo and sent them to Canada in 2005.”
Cervélo were quick to respond, issuing a statement which said: "Cervélo discontinued doing business with Peter Seyberth and TriDynamic in August of 2009 as a result of what we believed were serious irregularities in his business practices. Cervélo presently have a legal action against TriDynamic and Peter Seyberth for funds which are believed to have been withheld while he was the Cervélo distributor. It may be appropriate to see some of TriDynamic's statements regarding Cervélo and their products in this light."
Cervélo's statement went on to discuss the district court hearing, saying: "Initially Cervélo included TriDynamic in the defence in the German court, but public statements by Peter Seyberth were disruptive and unnecessary, and made a common defence difficult. As a result of this untenable relationship, [our] German law firm withdrew their representation of TriDynamic after the lower court decision in September.
"As a result of Cervélo's appeal of the court decision, the requirements of the decision weren't automatically enforceable against Cervélo. [However,] Canyon have exercised their right to enforce part of the decision in demanding certain information from Cervélo. TriDynamic didn't appeal the court decision and therefore the court order is immediately enforceable against them."
The statement also addressed the issue of Canyon's German patent. "Cervélo believe very strongly that the patent should be invalid due to prior use and obviousness," the company said. "[It covers] a combination of features... known publicly for many years before the patent application and more recently in very common use by many manufacturers."
Regardless of the Patent Office's eventual ruling, Cervélo say the issue will have virtually no effect on dealers or their own finances. The recently redesigned R-Series models aren't affected and Cervélo say that, while the German court ruling requires TriDynamic to reveal information about orders and dealers, and to request the return of affected stock purchased from them, dealers aren't specifically named in the action and aren't obliged to comply – in effect, rendering null any effect on consumers.
At time of publication, Canyon had not responded to requests for comment.