Since low flow showerheads were installed in Jerry and Kramer’s apartment building in 1996, advances in the technology have eliminated the low impact problems that rendered the sitcom sidekicks unable to get the shampoo out of their hair (see “The Showerhead“).
Bricor Analytical, Inc. (“Bricor”) is a Texas company that makes low flow water conservation products. Bricor owns U.S. Patent Nos. 6,260,273 (’273 patent) and 7,416,171 (’171 patent), which relate to low flow showerhead technology.
Last month Bricor filed suit against Ecotech Water LLC (“Ecotech”), in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, accusing its Florida-based competitor of infringing the ’273 and ’171 patents. The complaint (bricor_complaint.pdf) did not identify which Ecotech products were alleged to infringe the patents.
Both patents are directed to “Venturi”-based vacuum valves for use with showerheads. The Venturi effect refers to the increase in velocity that occurs when a fluid flows through a constricted section of pipe.
According to the patents, prior low flow devices had drawbacks including incompatibility with pre-existing showerheads, a lot of moveable parts and attachments, and air entering from the outlet end, which increased clogging and fouling of the device.
Bricor’s patented valve (10) has a plug (12) with a first opening (14), a second opening (16) and a third opening (18), which forms an air suction hole. The water flows in the direction of arrow 28.
Instead of air entering at the outlet end, as in prior art devices, the air enters the third opening (18). The air mixes with incoming water and, due to the suction force, produces a hard, rushing stream of water at a reduced flow rate.
Bricor’s patented technology conserves water while the improved shower performance presumably gets the shampoo out of your hair.
Note: thanks to Stu Soffer for bringing this case to my attention.