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Methods of manufacturing and treating lab-grown diamonds have come under scrutiny due to a legal dispute between lab-grown diamond companies in the US.
Methods of manufacturing and treating lab-grown diamonds have come under scrutiny due to a legal dispute between lab-grown diamond companies in the US.

Lab-grown diamond companies in conflict over patents

A US judge has ruled that a lawsuit between lab-grown diamond companies can proceed, finding that there are valid grounds for litigation over methods of manufacturing and treating the stones.

WD Lab Grown Diamonds, alongside scientific research organisation the Carnegie Institution of Washington, initially filed suit against six other lab-grown diamond companies in January this year.

Sue Rechner, WD Lab Grown Diamonds
Sue Rechner, WD Lab Grown Diamonds
"We don’t want to go into litigation, but if we must, we must. We are adamant that our intellectual property be respected"
Sue Rechner, WD Lab Grown Diamonds

It was alleged the companies had infringed two patents: one related to the chemical vapour deposition (CVD) method of manufacturing diamonds, and the other to a type of high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) post-growth treatment.

The defendants were named as IIa Technologies and its sister company Pure Grown Diamonds, and Fenix Diamonds – which manufactures lab-created diamonds for Michael Hill International – and its subsidiary Mahendra Brothers. 

Similar proceedings against ALTR – which is distributed by JC Jewels & Reine Jewels in Australia – and its parent company, RA Riam, were dropped in March.

At the time of the filing, Sue Rechner, CEO WD Lab Grown Diamonds, told JCK Online, “The decision to start litigation is not one any company takes lightly. It’s typically a last resort. We don’t want to go into litigation, but if we must, we must. We are adamant that our intellectual property be respected.”

Pure Grown Diamonds, Fenix Diamonds and IIa Technologies filed motions to dismiss on various grounds, including that the techniques were unpatentable “because they are natural phenomena” and that the evidence of infringement was insufficient as their methods of manufacturing are not publicly disclosed.

However, in a judgement handed down last month, Judge Jed Rakoff ruled that the case could proceed, stating that, “Although it is sometimes challenging for courts to distinguish between laws of nature and applications thereof, the facts here clearly fall into the latter category.

“The lab-grown diamonds at issue here are more like the synthetic DNA; both are facsimiles of natural substances, created from the same atomic building blocks but assembled through processes that do not occur in nature.”

He added that it was “at least plausible” that the companies had infringed the patents “based on the allegations that defendants’ diamonds could not be of the type and quality claimed unless produced through infringing methods”.

In February, the High Court of Singapore found IIa Technologies had infringed a patent owned by De Beers’ Element Six, also relating to CVD. Element Six had launched legal proceedings against IIa Technologies in 2016.

 

More reading: 
Synthetic diamond supplier sues for infringement
Michael Hill changes website, removes diamond claims 
The Great Diamond Debate: Round II











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