In case you’ve missed the news of late, SawStop is currently suing Robert Bosch GmbH of Germany and its subsidiary, Robert Bosch Tool Corporation, over Bosch’s much-anticipated new skin-sensing REAXX Portable Jobsite Table Saw (model GTS1041A-09). SawStop is alleging that Bosch’s injury mitigation technology violates SawStop’s proprietary blade braking system, which the company patented in 2004.
Since most eZine readers do not have access to media releases, we thought it would be useful to share what details we can about REAXX and the current lawsuit, despite limited information during this litigation timeframe. Here’s what we know, starting with some background.
In February 2015, Woodworker’s Journal saw Bosch’s new skin-sensing REAXX Portable Jobsite Table Saw for the first time in Las Vegas, at the World of Concrete trade show. During that press event, the saw’s skin-sensing system was demonstrated by Bosch, and its ability to prevent a blade mishap was instantaneous and impressive. Later last summer, again in Las Vegas, we met with Bosch at the AWFS trade show and were given a closer introduction to REAXX’s many features (to watch it, click here). At that time, the company anticipated that the saw would be available in fall 2015.
Fall came and went, and REAXX was still unavailable, presumably due to issues related to the court case. But then in an April 6 news release, Bosch announced that the saw will officially become available for purchase on June 1, 2016.
If you are unfamiliar with REAXX, what makes it special is Bosch’s Active Response Technology™. The saw’s built-in computer uses a low-voltage, low-current electrical signal that’s imparted into the saw blade. When human skin touches the blade, the electrical signal is altered in a way that creates a unique electrical “signature,” which is detected by electronic sensors. Once the signature is received by the computer, it cuts power to the saw motor and initiates a pressurized activation cartridge. The dual-activation cartridge drives the blade arbor below the table at a high rate of speed, stopping an accident short.
This all may seem similar to SawStop’s design, but there are several significant points of departure worth understanding. For one, unlike SawStop’s cartridges that embed an aluminum brake into the blade when an activation happens, Bosch’s REAXX technology doesn’t damage the blade. Instead, a latch engages with the drop mechanism and prevents the blade from rebounding back up above the saw table. Underneath, the blade simply coasts to a stop. The speed with which the blade drops is the reason, Bosch says, for why no blade brake is required.
Another difference involves the ability to reuse the cartridge. SawStop’s brake cartridge must be replaced after every activation. Bosch’s cartridge, alternately, can activate twice before it needs to be replaced. The saw takes about a minute, Bosch calculates, for an experienced owner to reset the machine for use again.
In an eZine interview we published previously, Craig Wilson, product manager for REAXX, said that Bosch is willing to license its Active Response Circuitry to other saw brands, and he added, “We would take any inquiries from third parties under consideration.”
All this said, what makes REAXX safer for end users, from Bosch’s perspective, makes it legally and financially problematic for SawStop. For a dozen years, only SawStop has offered table saws that detect skin — and that time-tested technology has prevented thousands of table saw related accidents from occurring across North America. Safer table saws has been SawStop’s mission since the company’s inception, but it has often been publically criticized for holding a patent-protected monopoly over skin-sensing injury mitigation. Bosch’s REAXX would open that door to a second brand choice for “smarter” table saws. And, Bosch’s Active Response Technology could become a standard feature of more table saw brands, too.
Is REAXX technology truly unique and distinct from SawStop’s inventions? SawStop argues no. In a news release dated April 20, Dr. Stephen Gass, SawStop’s president, had this to say:
“We have invested millions of dollars in research and development to protect woodworkers from serious injury, and those inventions have been awarded numerous patents. Unfortunately, Bosch has disregarded our patents and implemented many of our inventions in the REAXX saw. We will continue to defend our patent rights against what we believe is willful infringement.”
Currently, the case is before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). SawStop is asking the ITC to order U.S. Customs to exclude Bosch’s REAXX Table Saws from entering the United States. SawStop is also requesting that the ITC order Bosch to stop advertising and selling the saws and associated parts, which may include replacement cartridges essential to the saw’s operation.
In that same news release, SawStop anticipated that the trial would be underway this month, with a decision expected by August of this year.
“We are looking forward to the trial and we are confident that we will prevail,” says Gass. “Over the past several months of discovery, Bosch has failed to identify anything that suggests our inventions were anticipated or obvious, nor have they introduced anything that was not already reviewed by the Patent Office. As a result, we expect our patents to be upheld. Also, we understand the language of our patents clearly covers the REAXX saw, and for that reason, we expect the judge to find infringement.”
Given the impending court decision later this summer, Woodworker’s Journal has inquired with Bosch about the likelihood of REAXX’s actual availability in June. Will the launch date still be met? Linda Beckmeyer, Bosch’s manager of media and public relations, responded by saying that “Bosch is committed to meeting the REAXX timelines we have shared with partners and end users.”
Further, she added that while the company will not comment in detail about the pending litigation, it is vigorously defending its case.
“We protect our intellectual property (IP),” Beckmeyer added, “and we believe in the rights of other companies to protect their IP. At Bosch, safety is a priority — and we will work to defend consumers’ rights to buy our products.”
As more developments about this court case become available over the coming months, we will share them with you. In the meantime, we’re anticipating June 1 availability for REAXX Portable Jobsite Table Saws in stores. And, we’re looking forward to giving this new saw a test run in our shop at the earliest convenience.