Pool Industry Veterans find Evidence of Patent Infringement by Caretaker with Revolution 6-Port Valve
Accusations have been lodged against the executive team behind the Caretaker Revolution 6-Port Water Valve released in 2019. Thomas Lopez of Aquavida Pools and Pool Patch alleges that Caretaker stole his patented design for the 6-Port valve after two meetings with Caretaker executives including LaMont Dreschel, Barry Greenwald, James Oberlin, and other members of the engineering department. These meetings occurred at the Zodiac headquarters in Salt Lake City, where Lopez demonstrated his designs with a prototype valve, which the team viewed and examined. Lopez followed these meetings with an offer to Caretaker for his plans, which they had expressed interest in purchasing the patent for during communication following the demonstrations. His proposal was ultimately rejected under the pretense that Caretaker was only acquiring products with existing revenue streams. Come to the release of the Caretaker Revolution 6-Port valve in 2019, which utilizes an identical design to Lopez’s valve and also operates with a wearless cassette housing, a design also patented by Lopez in 2015.
According to sources, these allegations are credible, though Caretaker, Dreschel, and Greenwald have not been reached for comment. “I came to them with a design that was the first innovation of in-floor pool cleaning systems in years,” Lopez said. “They said they liked the design but declined my offer and then ripped off my patent.”
Caretaker’s parent company Zodiac merged with Fluidra in 2017, a move that many in the industry saw as a monopolistic shift as big names like Jandy®, Polaris®, Baracuda® became one corporate entity under the Zodiac moniker. Per recent patent filings that list Dreschel on them for the Revolution 6-Port Valve, they indicate that they have no prior knowledge of the illustrations, art, or design. However, this seems to be contradicted given Lopez and his attorney’s depiction of the timeline. However, Caretaker has made no comment on the allegations they have made no effort to dispute Lopez’s claims either. Lopez has been in the swimming pool industry for over three decades and holds over twenty unique patents in multiple fields.
“Clearly, they have knowledge of my designs,” Lopez said. “I have full documentation of my demonstrations from 2015, and when you put our patents side by side, it’s obvious that their design is a complete copy of mine.” Lopez is preparing to file a patent infringement case against Caretaker and is hoping to expose the frequency with which large corporate conglomerates exploit independent businesses.
“Ultimately, this isn’t totally about me, or Caretaker infringing on my intellectual property,” Lopez continues. “I want to have them be held accountable for their actions; if this happened with my design, who knows who else they have imitated and what their engineers and lawyers have done to other inventors.”
Caretaker has taken steps in recent years to re-brand themselves as supporters of local and independent pool contractors though Lopez’s accusations seem to portray a different corporate structure. As Lopez claims, Caretaker knowingly had him present his invention at their headquarters so that they could examine and replicate his product with no intention of following legal methods for obtaining intellectual property rights.
“Caretaker hadn’t innovated their design in thirty years, and their engineers hardly believed I had engineered and manufactured my prototype when I demonstrated it,” Lopez goes on. “They haven’t released a new model since the 80s, and then after viewing my design, they have one on the market in four years.”
Industry insiders acknowledge that this practice is not uncommon and that larger corporations buy out most small pool businesses to reduce competition and increase market share, as evidenced by the Fluidra and Zodiac merger. Lopez’s accusations expose Dreschel and Greenwald’s corruption and unscrupulous practices. Caretaker seems to rely on the fact that litigation on this scale can near half a million dollars, and most independent engineers and pool businesses cannot follow through with such cases to avoid repercussions. Lopez seems to have a clear cut case of patent infringement against Caretaker and is currently working on a campaign to assist other independent business to fight the theft of intellectual property.