BetterThanDiamond.com has filed a request with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, asking it to reexamine Charles & Colvard's patent for manufacturing “silicon carbide gemstones,” better known as moissanite.
Research Triangle Park, N.C.–based Charles & Colvard is the sole manufacturer of moissanite gemstones.
The filing asks the USPTO to review and consider the validity of Charles & Colvard’s patent (5,723,391) in light of three “prior art” publications provided to the USPTO by BetterThanDiamond.com. The company argues that the UTPTO would not have granted the patent if the three prior publications had been disclosed.
BetterThanDiamond, a Seattle-based lab-grown gem manufacturer, claims it has had several breakthroughs in the manufacturing of moissanite, but it has been prevented from combining its breakthroughs into a single offering due to Charles & Colvard’s patent.
“These breakthroughs include patent applications in progress for a new Hearts and Arrows round cut, and the ability to atomically enhance the colorlessness of all moissanite,” a company statement said. “The Mira enhancement process is able to take a typical 1.5 ct. round from Charles & Colvard, which grades K or ‘Faint Color’ on the diamond color scale, and permanently transform it to H color, or true near colorless.”
Charles & Colvard immediately issued a statement in response, denying BetterThanDiamond’s claims and saying it plans to “vigorously defend” its patent if the USPTO grants the request.
"This reexam request is the result of a threat by BetterThanDiamond.com's owner against Charles & Colvard to attack our patents if we did not agree to supply moissanite gemstones directly to it," said Charles & Colvard CEO Randy McCullough in the statement. "We chose not to partner with BetterThanDiamond.com because we believe the process it uses to alter the color of our gemstones is temporary and in the long term would lessen the durability and value of moissanite in the marketplace.”
McCullough added that the company’s patent has never been challenged since it was granted 13 years ago.
The patent may be reexamined only if the USPTO finds that the information provided in the request raises "a substantial new question of patentability,” Charles & Colvard notes. The process is expected to take between three to six months.