Blichmann patent on RIMS

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jkarp

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Hey HBT. I'd like to get a read and your opinions on a patent recently awarded to John Blichmann for a two vessel RIMS system:

Link to patent number 8,993,273 on uspto.gov

Now obviously this is related to his BrewEasy system. When BrewEasy was first announced, I had an exchange with John expressing my concern about his "patent pending" advertising, pointing out there was substantial published prior art in Lonnie McAllister’s Brutus 20, and my derivative Countertop Brutus 20, published initially in the Nov 2009 issue of BYO magazine with Lonnie's permission. John assured me that "The process we use is a bit different than the Brutus 20 as is the hardware that is used."

I continued to periodically monitor the public access portal at uspto.gov to review all patent applications by Blichmann over the years and unfortunately, this one never did appear during the application phase. There are mechanisms in the patent submission process that allow applications to be hidden from the public; I can only speculate that John's attorneys leveraged this avenue. Unfortunately, while challenging a patent during the application / review process is relatively easy and inexpensive, challenging one post issuance is not.

I published the Countertop Brutus 20 design with every intent of it being Public Domain (again, with Lonnie's permission). To my knowledge from exchanges with homebrewers around the world, hundreds of "CB20" type systems have been built. Now while I do believe it is highly unlikely that John would 'bite the hand that feeds him' and go after homebrewers for infringement, it is not beyond the stretch of imagination that he would enforce his patent against other commercial two-vessel brewing systems coming on the market.

In an exchange with John this week where I questioned the Novelty requirement of his new patent, he replied "The patent is on the stacking method using the adapter lid (makes it very compact) and the flow control and overflow control systems." I personally do believe these are both fair points, and to be honest, I expected any patent to be related to something along these lines after seeing BrewEasy in person. It doesn't take a lawyer's reading of the actual patent however to notice that these claims are vastly over-shadowed by lengthy and detailed process descriptions of recirculation infusion mash system (RIMS) and two-vessel brewing in general. In my opinion, this patent is overly broad and there is substantial prior art by countless homebrewers going back into the 1980s.

So, what are the options? I talked with both the uspto and a patent attorney this week and they're not good. The only real legal avenue at this point is what's called an "Inter Partes Review." The application fee alone is $9,000 and actual costs could run north of $20,000. I'm in the midst of starting my own business and have neither the cash nor time to pursue this approach alone, especially when my total income from CB20 is $300 (my writer's fee from BYO). One could envision some sort of crowd funded defense but again, there's still a massive time commitment...

Option two is to let the patent stand. It is obviously junk and would fall apart in court (my opinion) if Blichmann tried to go after someone with it. Problem here is the burden of defense - and cost - falls on one individual / company.

The third option is we let Blichmann Engineering know how we feel about this with our wallets and voices. I've bought quite a few of their products in the past. They're all in the trash now and I won't be making that mistake again. If you share my concern about this patent, please take a moment to let John know. Perhaps if enough homebrewers reach out, he'll realize he over-stepped this time and withdraw the patent.
 

IslandLizard

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Although I only skimmed it, it's very difficult to read, I think that whole patent is pretty friggin' broad. Is this really a new concept? So from now on no-one can ever use a "double boiler" contraption in context with wort production, without bowing to Blichmann? It defies common sense. Patenting the BrewEasy as a total system is about as far as he should have taken it, not a simple detail from it.

I hear you on the cost of challenging or trying to overturn an awarded patent. Only lawyers stand to make money from it. Everyone else loses. We live in a crazy society.
 

Quadrupled

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I'm neither a lawyer or a patent examiner, but have read through my share of patents. In general I've observed circumvention of patents through the specific details which USPTO allowed the inventors to retain. In this patent, two vessels are repeatedly discussed along with physical contact of the base of the mash tun with the boil kettle lid and use of a false bottom.

You seem to have three vessels, do not have the boil kettle and mash tun stacked and use a different filtering system. Plus other things I'm sure.

I suspect the patent is more around copycat protection of his specific system than prevention of others from building and selling theirs.

What is claimed is:

1. A two pot system for mashing grain into fermentable sugars...a lid positioned in physical contacting relationship with the open top of said boil kettle...[a] mash tun's closed bottom being in physical contacting relationship with said lid of the boil kettle...

3. The two pot system for mashing grain into fermentable sugar of claim 1 wherein said mash tun includes a filter system.

4. The two pot system of claim 3 wherein the filter system includes a false bottom.

Just my thoughts...Good luck.
 
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jkarp

jkarp

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You seem to have three vessels, do not have the boil kettle and mash tun stacked and use a different filtering system. Plus other things I'm sure.

No, Brutus 20 *is* a two vessel system by definition, and a false bottom in the mash tun is pretty standard equipment.
 

Quadrupled

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No, Brutus 20 *is* a two vessel system by definition, and a false bottom in the mash tun is pretty standard equipment.

Just thoughts I wanted to share, I'll back away from the thread.

I incorrectly considered the bucket in your thread (https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=131411) to be one vessel.

You also seem to use a stainless braid for your filter. The specifics can make a difference. A patent a former employer had was able to be sidestepped because the patent specified one orientation of a chemical without stating a second isomer. It was a pretty big frustration for them.

The Blichmann patent states the filter to be a "false bottom" without saying "wherein a false bottom may be understood to be a bazooka screen, stainless braid, nylon bag, etc."
 
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jkarp

jkarp

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Very fair point Quad. I had forgotten the original thread here started with a stainless braided latuer. False bottom was added further down the discussion.
 
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The only thing that matters is the claims. It looks like they are mostly dependent on claim 1, which states "the mash tun's closed bottom being in physical contacting relationship with said lid of the boil kettle;".

I just skimmed very briefly (steaks on grill). I'll have a better look later.
 

Honda88

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So I realize this is an old thread but after looking at the patent I am a bit confused as to what is being patented... I see in the claims there is a set of criteria a, b, c etc... does the patent include all this criteria as a whole or is it any one portion of the criteria? I would think the criteria as a whole would make the most sense. I Also agree with the OP that this patent seems like it is reaching pretty far but possibly I am just not reading it correctly???
 
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