FRESNO, Calif. --After an eleven-day trial, a U.S. Federal Court jury has ruled invalid and unenforceable a patent issued in 1997 to Joel Barbour for a water well camera capable of simultaneously inspecting both the side wall and downhole view of a water well or borehole.
In their decision, the jury decided that water well cameras both made and sold by the Laval Underground Surveys division of the Claude Laval Corporation did not infringe the Barbour patent. Additionally, the jury ruled that users of Laval dualview cameras did not infringe the Barbour patent, which, they decided, was obtained through "inequitable conduct" on the part of Barbour.
Claude Laval Jr., the grandfather of the current President of Claude Laval Corporation, invented the first water well camera in 1947, 52 years ago. That camera took three-dimensional, still pictures that were developed after the camera was removed from the well.
Today, Laval Underground Surveys makes a wide array of color and black-and-white downhole cameras, capable of operating under fluid, at great depth, in wells as small in diameter as two inches. Once viewed as a luxury, water well inspection is now a standard rehabilitation procedure throughout the world.
Because of the large number of Laval cameras in use, prices are now much lower, starting at less than $12,000 for a complete system, according to the company.
"The jury's decision means video inspection is available at low cost, royalty-free, to nearly every water well owner in the United States," said John Allison, manager of Laval Underground Surveys.
The litigation, which began in 1997 less than a month after the Barbour patent was issued by the U.S. patent office, only dealt with cameras with the dual-view feature. The trial was in the U.S. Federal Court for the Eastern District of California, before Judge Oliver Wanger.
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