New Wave-Making Technology Touches Off San Diego’s Wave War
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Wave Loch founder Thomas J. Lochtefeld holds for technology he began commercializing in 1991 for his “FlowRider” wave machines. The FlowRider, which propels a sheet of water up a contoured, wave-shaped form, has been installed at more than 50 sites throughout the United States, in at least 38 foreign countries, and on five cruise ships. Lochtefeld’s lawsuit seeks monetary damages and a court order that would effectively put the McFarlands out of business.
Lochtefeld told me in an e-mail that he had hired Bruce McFarland in the early 1990s as a contract draftsman and engineer, and that McFarland had access to Wave Loch’s design schematics, proprietary know-how, trade secrets, and intellectual property. “Without getting into technicalities,” Lochtefeld wrote, “I believe that my attorneys have set forth detailed infringement contentions that AWM has not rebutted and that Bruce McFarland developed and began selling his infringing device despite full knowledge of my patents.”
AWM denied Lochtefeld’s allegations in a formal legal response filed last July, and in November AWM requested a legal stay of the infringement suit until the U.S. Patent Office can review all of Wave Loch’s patent claims and reconsider the validity of its patents. In a Feb. 19 order, U.S. District Judge Michael M. Anello granted the stay—which halts the litigation until the patent review has been completed, a process estimated to take two years.
McFarland, on the advice of his attorney, declined to discuss Lochtefeld’s lawsuit. But he says his wave technology is fundamentally different from Wave Loch’s.
McFarland says the FlowRider produces a pressurized sheet of water that’s only several inches deep—too thin to allow surfers to use a conventional surfboard with stabilizing fins. McFarland says his SurfStream uses a greater volume of water (the machine’s pool typically holds 50,000 gallons) that flows deeper and at a lower speed, producing a standing wave that can rise as high as three feet. “It allows you to use a regular board with fins, that’s the main difference,” McFarland told me.
In another advance, McFarland said he’s been able to use software to manipulate the shape of the SurfStream standing wave. By using a computer to control … Next Page »