The Algae Turf Scrubber (ATS) is a method of aquarium water purification that was patented by Walter Adey in 1992. With this patent Adey prevented others from building or developing ATS filters which effectively stopped any independent development or innovation of this method of filtration by the general hobby community. We are pleased to learn that this patent will soon expire as explained by this contribution from Sara Allyn Mavinkurve. Thanks for the write-up Sara!
My fellow aquarists, mark your calenders. Dr. Adey’s U.S. Patent No. 5,097,795 will apparently expire on October 30, 2010. Where is this date coming from? Well, the patent was filed on Feb. 2, 1990 and issued on March 24, 1992. At that time, patent terms were 17 years. This would have set the expiration date on Feb. 2, 2007. However, note that, for whatever reason, the patent termination date “stamped” on the patent itself is Oct. 30, 2007. A patent term can be extended a bit for any number of reasons (for example, in some cases, for a delay in responding to the application). Don’t get too excited though. The patent didn’t expire on Oct. 30, 2007. Something called the “Uruguay Round Agreements Act” extended patent terms. It did so in such a way that, for patents filed prior to June 8, 1995, the new patent term is either 20 years from the earliest filing date or 17 years from the issue date (whichever date comes later). In the case of Dr. Adey’s U.S. Patent No. 5,097,795, assuming that Feb. 2, 1990 is the earliest filing date, the patent term would expire on either Feb. 2, 2010 (20 years from the first filing date) or on March 24, 2009 (17 years from the issue date). Since Feb. 2, 2010 is the later date, that’s the one the statute suggests applies. Now, if Feb. 2, 1990 is not the earliest filing date, and there’s an earlier one, then the patent might expire even sooner than Feb. 2, 2010.
Oh, but wait… again, there might be a bit of a “catch.” Remember when I mentioned that a termination date of Oct. 30, 2007 was initially “stamped” on the patent when one would think it should have been initially determined to be Feb. 2, 2007? Well, that might indicate that the patent term was extended by a few months because of delay or for some other reason. If this is the case, at the time the patent was issued, the term was extended just under 9 months past the then-applicable 17 year term. So, just to be “safe,” we might add another 9 months to the new expiration date. That would mean that the patent expires on October 30, 2010.Thus, baring any unforseen term extensions, it looks like the patent on this method for aquarium filtration expires on October 30, 2010. I’m marking my calander.
by Sara Mavinkurve, written exclusively in her capacity as an aquarist, and for entertainment purposes only