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A ‘knee-friendly’ alpine ski binding gets US patent

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
A new ‘knee-friendly’ alpine ski binding has been given a utility patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The binding, which has been designed KneeBinding Inc, features technology that specifically protects against injuries to the ACL, without causing skiers to experience inadvertent pre-release.

The patent has been allowed with no changes, which means that the level of monopoly protection granted to the company will be broad. Rick Howell, president of the company, is confident that a knee-friendly ski binding that’s backed with this much patent protection will have an industry-changing impact.

...For more info: http://www.kneebinding.com/contact.htm

Video: http://www.kneebinding.com/video.htm
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The application can be viewed: US20040173994

the mechanism may IMO be most clearly seen in this pic of the heelpiece:



Reminds me of the Voile CRB plates, though, granted, this is at the heel not the toe.

Immediate grant of the application claims is not an automatic guarantee of "broad" protection, and may more directly reflect an over-modest claimant. Expect any true "broad" claims to get attacked, again, and again in court before they can remotely have an 'impact'.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
PS, I for impact prefer the Pogo-ski of US20050218610:

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God, I'd love to see technique for that discussed over on Epic.

Oh someone please post it in an appropriate forum over there...
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comprex, oh yes I see exactly what you mean.
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The last 30 seconds of the second video at http://www.kneebinding.com/video.htm remind me pretty damn strongly of the Tyrolia bindings on the skis I used to teach in the snowharden... (They have a sideways releasing heel binding)

Whats so new about these bindings?
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I think calling it the "Ski-Binding Proven to Mitigate Knee Injuries" is over egging it just a little. Any binding that releases will mitigate knee injuries. I think the point of this binding is that it can be skied at low DIN settings without prerelease although it is not clear how this can be. The US Patent system are a bit discredited mind, the USPO has issued numerous patents for things like the garden swing. They don't actually seem to check any patents for things like prior art or obviousness rather leaving it to the court system to sort out.
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davidof, you're correct about US patents. The whole system is discredited, IMV.
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Typical American Marketing Sh*t and no substance .
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laundryman, discredited in what regard? It never was a licence to manufacture.
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comprex, the system has been overwhelmed with claims that are obvious "improvements". It is not the defender of the lone inventor or small business making a genuine breakthrough, but the weapon of multinationals with their legions of lawyers, putting up a barrage of indiscriminate fire to clear the ground they intend to dominate.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
A much needed development.
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The allowance of the KneeBinding patent came after 4 years of prosecution. It was not allowed "quickly". Under the rules of the doctrine of equivalents, a patent that has been allowed with no modification of the claims has broader protection than patents which have been allowed where the claims have been modified. The idea behind patents is to provide the inventor with some breathing room to exploit the technology, without competition, to enable the inventor time to recoup development costs and to encourage new breakthrough development.

Also, it should be noted "any binding that releases" does not mitigate knee injuries. The signature forces that enter the ski-human system that cause ACL injuries and ruptures are largely undetected by contemporary ski bindings (bindings with lateral toe release and vertical heel release).

Also, the Tyrolia binding that is noted above can only release laterally at the heel after it has displaced upward (note the cam under the heel cup that causes this action).

Approximately 70% of all types of skiing-events that cause injuries and ruptures to the ACL within the knee are "Phantom Foot" events - which involve 3 combined vectors: (1) internal rotation of the upper leg relative to the foot; (2) abduction (the distal end of the tibia moves laterally - sideways - relative to the knee; (3) rear-weighting.

A binding that blocks lateral release during the 3rd aspect of the combined vectors noted above cannot release in response to a Phantom Foot event. (the Tyrolia "Diagonal" cannot release in response to Phantom Foot events).

It has been recently proven by leading biomechanical researchers in Montreal that bindings that have pure lateral heel release will avert ACL injuries and ruptures.

Lateral heel release is not new: 25 years ago there were numerous bindings that had lateral heel release, including Alsop, Americana, Besser, Burt, Gertsch, Head, Eckl, and many others. None of those bindings' designers provided lateral heel release to avert knee injuries - because knee injuries comprised on 4% of all skiing injuries at that time (shaped skies and stiffer boot changed the amount of knee injuries). However, each of those lateral-heel releasing bindings failed because they had massive inherent pre-release problems (no matter the settings).

What's new with KneeBinding technology is that it is the first binding to provide lateral heel release that does not pre-release - and which will meet all international standards for 'normal' release. It does this by providing a (1) Vector Decoupler that filters-out controlled-skiing forces from ACL-injury-producing forces; and by providing (2) Progressive Cams that filter-out aggressive ski flex forward-pressure forces from the lateral release mechanism (the features shown in the diagram above deal with this point No. 2). The CADD drawing shown in the recent posting in Ski Racing magazine shows the Vector Decoupler - the part that's colored, red.

The design engineer who invented KneeBinding technology raced 80mph CanAm downhills with success with hand-made bindings that never pre-released - while still allowing 'twist-out' release at the finish-line. This was because those hand-made bindings featured similar 'de-coupling' elements (similar to those noted above) which kept the bidng from being "confused" between knowing when to release and when to provide powerful edge control and retention. This was important to the inventor of KneeBinding because before these hand-made bindings were successfully utilized -- while skiing on contemporary race-stock bindings -- he lost his spleen in a crash due to a pre-release. The injury almost caused a fatality. The inventor also has a successful design-engineering background with several leading sports products that perform in extreme sports environments with low warranty-return rates (less than 2%) and which cause the users to re-order again and again over decades.

KneeBinding technology has been developed incrementally over 30-years - with a focused concentration of engineering, on-slope and lab testing over the past 5-years. The skiing video depicts how the binding can be skied at low lateral heel release settings without pre-release -- and as noted in the side-bar next to the video portal in the KneeBinding website, the actual recommended lateral heel release settings are higher: the video is purely a grass-roots demonstration of the powerful retention capability of the new technology even at lower-than-recommended settings. During the '06-07 ski season, KneeBinding technology was skied over 500,000 vertical feet in Stowe, Vermont with zero lateral-heel pre-release. The US product liability environment suggest a de facto level of care in this regard that is high. More importantly, the KneeBinding team is comprised of skiers who ski nearly every day and who love this beautiful sport.

Last season, it is estimated that approximately 17,000 skiing ACL-injuries were incurred in the US, 24,000 in al of North America (US + Canada) and 70,000 world-wide. Each injury has an average cost for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of approx. US$15,000 (some studies report and average cost of approx US$20,000). This represents over a billion dollars PER YEAR in skiing ACL-injuries. These costs do not include lost work, early arthritis and skier attrition. Skiing-ACL injuries are both frequent and severe. Quoting Warren Witherell, "they are a terrible part of skiing: bravo for a solution."

It is the goal of KneeBinding technology to provide powerful retention and edge control, while also providing release in response to potential ACL-Injury producign loads. The other binding companies are caught in their 30-year old tibia-fracture-mitigation-only paradigm - and it is time for a bona fide solution from real skiers. This solution should be good or skiers - and it will be available in the late fall of '08 after full-manufacturing is set up in Vermont.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
5bind, welcome to Snowheads. Thanks for coming to share a little more information about your binding. I wish you every success with your new product. From someone with one and half knees...
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Very interesting stuff indeed but, and forgive my ignorance if I'm talking nonsense, aren't these type of injuries what Look (and now presumably also Rossignol) bindings were/are supposed to be good at combating?

Not sure if they still use the turntable system though or have they developed something better/different?
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5bind, Welcome indeed Smile

Innovating in any area is hard work - I wish you the best and hope to see your product at close quarters one day.

My wife suffered a complete ACL tear in the '06 season. She's just over a year post-op now and recovering.
She's a tiny lady - 100lb - and there's always the niggle that the bindings could have done their job better...

Still, que sera; and it's great to see the industry striving to improve.
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laundryman wrote:
It is not the defender of the lone inventor or small business making a genuine breakthrough, but the weapon of multinationals with their legions of lawyers, putting up a barrage of indiscriminate fire to clear the ground they intend to dominate.

It's a little unfair to single out the US system, in Europe large companies are just as predatory.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
5bind wrote:


Also, it should be noted "any binding that releases" does not mitigate knee injuries.


I don't think you understand what mitigate means.
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Thank you Rick for your explanations, Welcome to snowheads.

Any improvement is very welcome off course, and if your binding works as advertised (and allow the same control preferably, as bindings are very important to the response of a ski) I really hope to see them in the market soon!

As for the tyrolias... They are on the skis I learned on, so never skied those aggressively, and since they are 1000km away in a shed in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, i cannot take a peek, because your comment makes me very curious Smile

davidof wrote:
5bind wrote:


Also, it should be noted "any binding that releases" does not mitigate knee injuries.


I don't think you understand what mitigate means.


I think The quote by Rick is slightly incomplete....

His binding is designed to provide an additional way to release in which our current bindings falls short.
This shortcoming alledgedly causes some amount of Knee injuries that may be preventable by the kneebinding as advertised.

Therefore I think the quote should be: "Any binding that releases" does not mitigate /the described type (ACL)/ of knee injuries.

Correct me if i'm wrong !
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roga, you'll notice that Look "turntable" bindings are no longer generally available to the consumer. Turntable bindings have been around for a very long time, the design allows for foot to twist out of the binding. What is fulfilled by the turntable can also be done at the toe binding with what is normally called an AFD of Anti-Friction Device, which allows your boot to slide sideways or twist out of the binding.

5bind wrote:
Lateral heel release is not new: 25 years ago there were numerous bindings that had lateral heel release, including Alsop, Americana, Besser, Burt, Gertsch, Head, Eckl, and many others. None of those bindings' designers provided lateral heel release to avert knee injuries - because knee injuries comprised on 4% of all skiing injuries at that time (shaped skies and stiffer boot changed the amount of knee injuries). However, each of those lateral-heel releasing bindings failed because they had massive inherent pre-release problems (no matter the settings).
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Ronald wrote:


Correct me if i'm wrong !


the headline text on the website says:

Quote:
1st Ski-Binding Proven to Mitigate Knee Injuries .


That's the only bit I took issue with. Any improvement in binding technology (as I said above) is to be welcomed.
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veeeight wrote:
laundryman wrote:
It is not the defender of the lone inventor or small business making a genuine breakthrough, but the weapon of multinationals with their legions of lawyers, putting up a barrage of indiscriminate fire to clear the ground they intend to dominate.

It's a little unfair to single out the US system, in Europe large companies are just as predatory.

davidof said the US system was discredited. I agreed with him (in a post above the one you quoted), but extended the comment to the "whole" system, meaning worldwide. Japanese multinationals are also aggressive with patents, as well as US and European ones.

That said, I believe there is less scrutiny of claims in the US system. I think this is partly because software and business processes are patentable in the US (resulting in masses of frivolous claims IMV), but not in the EU - though there is pressure for the EU to move that way.

FWIW, I think the invention described here is exactly the sort of thing that patents were intended for.
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laundryman wrote:


FWIW, I think the invention described here is exactly the sort of thing that patents were intended for.


Yes, I think we agree that if this binding reduces ACL injuries then it will be a significant advance for what is a horrible injury and the inventor deserves to earn money in spades.
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laundryman wrote:

Quote:
It's a little unfair to single out the US system, in Europe large companies are just as predatory.

davidof said the US system was discredited. I agreed with him (in a post above the one you quoted), but extended the comment to the "whole" system, meaning worldwide. Japanese multinationals are also aggressive with patents, as well as US and European ones.


None of which systems ever had a remit to venture forth and enforce the patent, the discreditation therefore more properly belongs to the respective justice systems.
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davidof, the Lange boot cuff, demonstrated to be effective, slipped the public notice entirely.
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comprex, up to a point: but also the legislatures for not drawing the class of things which are patentable more tightly, and for not mandating (and funding) patent offices to review claims with sufficient rigour (which I grant cannot be an exhaustive investigation).

I wonder what Albert Einstein, ex patent clerk, would have made of the current situation.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
laundryman wrote:
comprex, up to a point: but also the legislatures for not drawing the class of things which are patentable more tightly


Seems an initiative counter to their constituents' wishes, particularly if a major product of the economy is just such a class of things as might be considered for exclusion.

Quote:
, and for not mandating (and funding) patent offices to review claims with sufficient rigour (which I grant cannot be an exhaustive investigation).


It is meant to be a self-funding agency, is it really government's role to fund exclusivity?
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parlor wrote:
roga, you'll notice that Look "turntable" bindings are no longer generally available to the consumer. Turntable bindings have been around for a very long time, the design allows for foot to twist out of the binding. What is fulfilled by the turntable can also be done at the toe binding with what is normally called an AFD of Anti-Friction Device, which allows your boot to slide sideways or twist out of the binding.

5bind wrote:
Lateral heel release is not new: 25 years ago there were numerous bindings that had lateral heel release, including Alsop, Americana, Besser, Burt, Gertsch, Head, Eckl, and many others. None of those bindings' designers provided lateral heel release to avert knee injuries - because knee injuries comprised on 4% of all skiing injuries at that time (shaped skies and stiffer boot changed the amount of knee injuries). However, each of those lateral-heel releasing bindings failed because they had massive inherent pre-release problems (no matter the settings).

Thanks for the clarification on that parlor Very Happy

I do seem to recall Look claiming back in the late 70s/80s though that the turntable system helped to avoid knee injuries in twisting falls though - am I mistaken in that recollection?
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You know it makes sense.
comprex wrote:
It is meant to be a self-funding agency, is it really government's role to fund exclusivity?

Quite the reverse - it is the government's role to counter unwarranted exclusivity.
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Re the question, above, about turntables - including Look, Marker, Rossignol (and in 1969, there was a turntable made by Ramy) ... they all have "side lugs" (kind of like short finger tips) that extend straight-up from the sides of all turntables that contact the flat side-walls of the boot. These side-lugs hold the longer arms that extend backward to the "piston-bottles" that contain the forward release mechanisms. The short-finger-tip "side-lugs" completely block all boots from releasing laterally. It is virtually impossible for any turntable to provide lateral heel release. In fact, all turntables potentially contribute to potential injury-producing ACL-injuries because it is virtaully impossible for them to provide lateral heel release.

Along the same vein -- all other forms of heel units that are on the market, today, are step-ins. No step-in intentionally provides lateral heel release; however, in some extreme Phantom Foot loading conditions a step-in might (sometimes, but rarely) provide a lateral "escape" of the boot. I don't call that a true lateral "release", because the engineers who designed the binding never considered lateral heel release - nor does it happen consistently or at "reasonable" lateral heel release levels. However, sometimes, a lateral heel escape can happen (again, rarely) - and when a lateral heel escape does occur with a step-in heel it could sometimes avert an ACL injury. I must add emphasis that this is a rare, uncontrolled situation (though a blessing). I've described this unlikely scenario to frame the significance of the impossibility of a turntable to provide even an "escape" ... and that is one reason why the old turntables have been perminantly removed from the market.

As for claims from the other binding companies regarding their effect on knee injuries, only the Geze SE3 and the Line binding had an effect on knee injuries. That's why no binding company makes any claims in this regard. Some independent binding company sales reps and some overly enthusiastic retail store employees have made claims about bindings' virtues in this regard in the past - but in each case, once the binding companies discovered that these claims were circulating, each such instance was shut-down, quickly, by the binding companies. As a former product manager for a major ski binding company, I know this, first hand. Re the Geze SE3 and the Line binding; the SE3 addressed BIAD-skiing ACL events (boot induced anterior drawer) which comprise approx 15% of all skiing ACL-injuries - but it caused pre-release for some skiers; while the Line binding addressed Phantom Foot events, but it failed TÜV testing pertaining to what all bindings must provide to protect the tibia. Both bindings were also excessively heavy (approx 8-pounds per pair).

From a product liability perspective and from a ski binding research perspective - if any binding that had been on the market years ago did in fact mitigate skiing-knee injuries while also not causing pre-release....it would still be made, today. We have only recently discovered that lateral heel release will mitigate skiing knee injuries, and it is only in the new KneeBinding technology that lateral heel releasealso comes with a minimization of inadvertent pre-release - while providing all the requirements of what every binding must do, too (though some pre-release may always occur, and some injuries will always occur).
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laundryman, The auto industry in EU and Japan are the worst, even by US standards. The amount of niggly patents in each car is unbelievable.
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5bind, do you expect to have events or venues presenting the binding to skiers directly, in Stowe or elsewhere?
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We have recently reported extensive biomechanical test data at the ISSS conference in Scotland (end of May '07) to the entire skiing safety research community (we presented preliminary data to the same group 2 yrs ago in Japan) -- and we are now styling the aesthetics of the functional prototype. Our plan is to introduce to a small, select, group of top ski retailers this winter -- complete the endurance (fatigue) testing this winter and next summer in the Southern hemisphere and have our first production samples available for public consumption in the Fall of '08. Having said that, we must now go-off to make the bacon.....
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5bind, thanks for clarifying the issue - all *very* useful information indeed.

I'll be interested to see your binding in the flesh, and would be even more interested to test it if you can set up over here and/or across Europe.

Best of luck
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Thank You -- 'And yes, we are an American company based here in Stowe, Vermont - which is a major ski resort town near Burlington, VT....so we will keep you informed about any opportunity for you to test. The KneeBinding VP of Sales is located in Leonberg, Germany (near Stuttgart) - so folks in Europe who are interested in KneeBinding can contact KneeBinding-Europe, that way, too.
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veeeight, I'll take your word for that. At risk of annoying Americans, I'd speculate that it could be because most automotive innovation comes from Europe and Japan these days (albeit that, as you say, they're over-enthusiastic with the patents).
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5bind, best of luck. That was a brilliant description without the aid of diagrams, BTW!
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laundryman, or it could be that the standard of obviousness is actually -lower- for concepts as opposed to applications? Laughing
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Come back Spademan - all is forgiven.
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Spademan could only address BIAD (Boot Induced Anterior Drawer) ACL-injury producing events. BIAD-events have a prevalence of ~8% of all skiing-ACL injury events (source: Professor Robert J. Johnson, MD, Department Head of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Univ. Vermont, USA, past president of International Society for Skiing Safety, author of scores of peer-reviewed research-papers on skiing epidemiology, past clinical surgeon at University Orthopaedics in Burlington, Vermont). Spademan could respond to BIAD-injury events because Spademan could release vertically at the front of the boot — in direct response to the BIAD injury-mechanism. However, Spademan's could not respond to Phantom Foot, Slip-Catch or Freudiger's Myriad skiing-ACL injury producing events. Phantom Foot, Slip-Catch and Freduiger's Myriad have a combined prevalence of ~80% of all skiing-ACL injury events (source: RJ Johnson, MD -- pls see above ref.). Phantom Foot, Slip-Catch and Freudiger's Myriad each have abduction force (that generate Valgus torque) as their primary load component. The side-lugs in Spademan bindings block abduction force that's applied (and Valgus torque that's generated) under, near and aft of the tibial axis. This means that Spademan could address BIAD-events that have a prevalence of only ~8% of all skiing-ACL-events -- but could not have addressed Phantom Foot (PF), Slip-Catch (SC) and Freudiger's Myriad (FM) which have a combined prevalence of ~80% of all skiing ACL-events.

Only bindings with lateral heel release address the largest component of PF, SC and FM events -- applied abduction force that generates Valgus torque. Lateral heel release stands directly in the kinematic pathway of applied abduction forces that enter the ski under, near and aft of the tibial axis that generate Valgus torque (source: Rick Howell, President, Howell Ski Bindings -- as presented in abstract-form at the 20th congress of the ISSS at San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, August 6, 2013). PF, SC and FM events that have a prevalence of ~80% are Valgus-dominant, with a small touch of tibia-torque. Combined Valgus torque plus tibia torque produce large ACL-strain leading directly to ACL-rupture depending on the mix of Valgus torque (primary) and tibia torque (secondary) -- (source: Professor Thomas Andriacchi, PhD, Stanford University Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Orthopaedic Surgery).

Spademan could address ~8% of all skiing-ACL events, whereas bindings with lateral heel release address ~80% of all skiing-ACL events.

Rick Howell

Howell Ski Bindings
Stowe, Vermont USA

HOWELL SKI BINDINGS ARE NOT KNEEBINDING SKI BINDINGS.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Howell Ski Bindings. All rights reserved.
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