SawStop, renowned for its advanced table and cabinet saws, has transformed the safety standards of power tools with its patented safety system. This innovation prioritizes user safety, ensuring protection against potential mishaps.
We’ve extensively covered SawStop in previous articles, discussing topics like bypass settings, distinctions between their professional and industrial models, and blade recommendations for their cabinet saws.
While we’re fond of SawStop table saws, their premium price often raises the question: “What is the value of a finger?” This isn’t just a rhetorical query; it underscores the significance of safety.
SawStop’s patent expiration: While some of SawStop’s patents began expiring in 2021, full protection might extend until 2026 due to continuation patents. This means competitors may have to wait longer before replicating the safety system.
The standout feature of SawStop is its ability to halt a rapidly spinning table saw blade in less than 5 milliseconds. To put this into perspective, a second contains 1,000 milliseconds. Imagine breaking that second into a thousand fragments and then isolating just five of them. That’s the astonishing speed at which SawStop operates, potentially saving users from severe injuries.
Now, let’s delve deeper into the safety features of their saws and touch upon the subject of patents.
The SawStop Safety Mechanism
The table saw stands out in many workshops as the most prominent power tool. It’s essential for tasks like ripping and crosscutting lumber, with its fence ensuring precise, parallel cuts to the blade.
Modern table saws come equipped with a riving knife, a crucial safety feature. This knife prevents the wood’s kerf from closing around the blade, which could cause the lumber to jerk back, potentially causing injury.
SawStop has elevated this safety standard. Their table saws are designed with a unique braking system that activates the moment the blade touches human skin. This blade is embedded with an electrical signal that detects contact with the user. Upon detection, the signal alters, triggering the safety mechanism.
The blade’s brake engages in an impressive 5 milliseconds, halting its spin. Simultaneously, the blade retracts below the table’s surface, minimizing the risk of injury. This advanced feature ensures that any potential harm is significantly reduced, often to just a minor scratch.
After an incident, SawStop’s blade and brake system can be swiftly replaced, getting the saw operational in mere minutes. Recent data indicates a staggering 67,000 table saw-related accidents annually in the U.S. While it’s unclear how many of these are prevented by SawStop’s technology, numerous testimonials on their website attest to its effectiveness in averting injuries.
Though SawStop saws come with a heftier price tag, ranging from $1600 to $4800 based on the model, one must consider their invaluable protection. Their unique safety system justifies the premium cost. Furthermore, SawStop’s exclusive patents on this technology mean no other manufacturer can replicate their design, giving them a distinct edge in the market. However, this exclusivity might shift once the patents expire.
SawStop is recognized for its patents related to its innovative safety system for table and cabinet saws. But what exactly are patents?
Patents represent a form of intellectual property, granting the holder exclusive rights to their invention for a set duration. Essentially, if you invent something and register its design and description with the U.S. Patent Office, you secure exclusive commercial rights to it for a specific period, typically 20 years. This exclusivity prevents others from replicating, using, or selling your invention during that time.
This “invention” could be a tangible product, a novel method, or a unique solution to a pre-existing problem. Historically, inventors would submit rudimentary sketches and descriptions to the patent office to claim these rights. The 20-year protection would commence from the filing date.
A makeshift method was also known as the “poor man’s patent.” Inventors would mail their invention’s sketch and description to themselves. The postmark date then served as the patent’s start date, granting them two decades of exclusive rights.
However, post the 20-year period, the invention became public domain. This means anyone can produce, use, or sell versions of it, and the original patent holder loses their exclusive rights.
Can Patents Be Extended?
This is an interesting question, although technically, the answer is no. However, as with many aspects of law, there can be minor exceptions. They have to do with what are known as “continuation patents” and “divisional patents.” The fine points of these concepts are worth mentioning.
What is A Continuation Patent?
A continuation patent is a new application allowing an inventor to pursue further patent claims based on the original or “parent” patent claim. There are good business reasons for making a continuation patent application that can have the effect of continuing the patent protections afforded by filing the “parent” claim. An example might be a further enhancement of the device, thing, or process that was the subject of the original patent claim.
A continuation patent application may be filed at any time while a parent patent or any part of one in the patent family is pending. Its purpose is to broaden the original protection claim or attack a competitor’s design-around.
What is a Divisional Patent?
A divisional patent application is similar to a continuation patent application, with the difference being that a divisional patent application and the claim is directed at a different part of the invented thing or process instead of the same claim or claims of the parent patent application.
If, for instance, a device comprised of different parts or processes has had a redesign of a single part or component with a new invention, the claim for that new component would constitute a divisional patent claim, and the argument could be made by the parent device or process has been, to an extent, “re-invented.”
What Is The SawStop Patent and When Will It End?
As we’ve explored, patents are more complex than just a straightforward claim. So, how does this complexity impact SawStop’s patent protections and its edge over competitors?
While some of SawStop’s patents started expiring in 2021, it doesn’t automatically grant competitors the green light to replicate their safety system. Currently, SawStop boasts around 100 patents, with a significant portion being continuation patents, as previously discussed. This background in patent law is crucial to understand the nuances.
These continuation patents might outlive the original or “parent” patents related to SawStop’s safety system. This means the actual date when competitors can freely adapt the design is still ticking.
The full expiration of SawStop’s patent protections might stretch until 2026. Their strategic use of continuation patents ensures they enjoy protection beyond the initial 20-year period from their primary patent filing.
SawStop’s safety system is undeniably groundbreaking. It’s only fair that they maximize the benefits of their innovation. However, for woodworking aficionados eager for a SawStop or a similar safety feature, the eventual emergence of competition could lead to more affordable options. This would eliminate the internal debate over the cost justification.
For those of you who want once again to see a SawStop in action, here’s a video for your enjoyment. It is only 17 seconds long, and it’s amazing.
Woodworking and patent law. Bet you never thought the two would come together in one article. With less than 4 years until the SawStop patent expires, I will just be extra careful with my fingers and keep them all in the meantime.