GW Patent Information

For detailed information and inquiries regarding  GW Crystal's United States Patents on its original USB/Flash drive product designs, including licensing terms, contact us at

GW Crystal has been granted US Patent protection for seven of our original designs of crystal USB/flash drives, with other patents pending. Seven of the designs are now patented in the US, including D708,188, D702,697, D718,774, D718,773, and D719,170. Patent protection of these designs will be enforced by GW in every available jurisdiction and tribunal. GW is offering licenses for both these patented designs and our pending patented designs. Contact GW for details about licensing opportunities. 

GW is committed to pursuing all infringers and counterfeiters of our original designs, in US Federal District Courts, to seek compensation for damages, and the International Trade Court, to stop the importation of all knock-off product designs. 


A Brief History of Laser Subsurface Patents.

GW was an early licensee to the now expired Sub-Surface Laser Engraving (SSLE) Patents US 5,206,496 ('496) and 5,637,244 ('244). The '496 patent, by Dr. R. Marc Clement, is generally considered to be the father patent for the entire industry of sub-surface laser engraving. 

                                   Plasma Lamp Showing Luminescent Plasma Form

Plasma Formation

                          Laser Energy Focused Inside Crystal Produces Tiny Areas of Plasma              


Patent Law

From Wikipedia: “A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state (national government) to an inventor or his assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for a public disclosure of an invention.” 

Origins of the Patent System

Prior to the advent of the patent system, inventions were protected by guilds and secrecy.  Membership in a guild was difficult to get and generally required a lifetime commitment and a lengthy apprenticeship period.  Unfortunately, by keeping both new and old inventions secret, the progress of technology was very slow.  Patents changed this forever.  Patents were essentially an agreement between the inventor and the public and its governing bodies.  Under this arrangement, in exchange for revealing his secret invention and teaching in detail how to build the invention to the public, the government would grant the inventor a monopoly on the use of it for a limited period of time.  During that time period, anyone using the invention taught in the patent would need the inventor/owner’s permission. The inventor or owner would be entitled to a reasonable royalty on use of the invention.  After the patent expired, the invention would move into the public domain and anyone could then use it without paying a royalty.   The children of the inventor’s generation would be allowed free and open access to it when they entered adulthood.   Thus, the length of time chosen for the patent term was roughly 20 years. 

The recent phenomena of somehow believing intellectual property rights such as patents are unfair and inhibit innovation is one based on ignorance of the history and the dramatic role these rights have played in the progress of technology and the creative arts.  Thumbing your nose at them is not only wrong ethically, morally, and legally, it can also be financially catastrophic for the infringer. 

Patent Claims and Infringement

In order to determine what exactly is owned by the inventor or assignee (owner) of the patent, a patent must include a set of claims.  These are very much like the claims which were once marked off by gold miners to protect their discovery of gold.  Patents must similarly mark off the boundaries of the claimed invention.  Anyone that trespasses into that property without the owner’s permission by making or using the invention staked out by the claim boundaries can be sued for infringement.  If they do so with prior knowledge of the patent, they risk much higher penalties for willful infringement. 


Origins of the Clement ‘496 Patent

The Laser

The term laser is actually an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.   Lasers produce a beam of coherent light,  where the light waves are synchronized like marching soldiers, and the light beam does not scatter. Natural light is incoherent and scatters from its source.  By focusing a laser beam into a very narrow beam, extremely high energies can be transmitted across long distances if they are unblocked and not diffracted by a lens optic.  

Laser Induced Damage in Optics

When the Laser was invented in the 1960’s, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a feverish technical race of weapons development.  The implications of Laser technology were clear.  Focused energy is a powerful means of pinpoint accurate destruction.   Thus Soviet, American, and UK scientists were lavished with research money.   A type of Laser known as the Q-switched beam laser was developed in the late 1960’s that generates a pulsed laser beam.  Each pulse carries a very high amount of energy. These high energy lasers, however, are problematic.    The pulsed beams need to be manipulated, focused, and directed with glass optics.  Laser optics needed to be meticulously clean and free of impurities or the beam energy would crack the glass of a lens or mirror.  The study of Laser induced damage in optics became in itself a major area of study for Physics researchers, and international meetings of scientists were held each year to share and publish their research.   As a by product of this research effort, it was discovered that the damage was sometimes completely contained within the glass optics (thus the birth of our specialized engraving within crystal awards and promotional items, crystal paperweights and crystal recogniton awards and more).  What has been learned in the years of study since the initial discovery of this phenomena is that if a laser is focused into optical glass, at some threshold level of energy a portion of the glass can transition from its solid state, and skipping both the liquid and gas states, it becomes a plasma, the fourth state of matter.  The flash of lightning is the formation of a plasma from the air that happens to be in the way of the beam of energy from the storm to the surface of the planet.  This happens inside glass as well, and has caused decades of headaches for laser physicists.  The plasma sparks expanded inside the glass, and caused numerous types of damage. 

Laser damage in optics continues to be an active area of academic research.  An annual symposium is held in Boulder, Colorado by SPIE.


                                 Multi-Head Laser Split Beam Engraving System

                     3D Crystal Laser System with Split Laser


Dr. R. Marc Clement

Dr. R. Marc Clement is a Laser Physicist and professor at the University of Swansea in the UK.  In the late 1980’s, Dr. Clement worked with United Distillers and Vintners, now Diageo, on an unusual project.  United Distillers was facing an increasing problem of counterfeit liquors, particularly on the international market.  Certain labels of Scotch produced by United Distillers, such as Johnny Walker Blue Label, sell for hundreds of British pounds per liter.

The Invention of Controlled Subsurface Marking

Dr. Clement’s proposed solution to the problem was to mark the liquor bottles inside the glass by causing controlled points of laser induced subsurface damage within the glass.  The “novelty” or inventive step of the invention was the ability to control the location of the mark in three dimensions well enough to create a defined series of points which could form a detectible and identifiable mark.  The patent teaches a method for doing this and the claims cover virtually all forms of subsurface laser engraving used in our industry.  In 1991 Dr. Clement filed a patent application in the US disclosing the invention and requesting patent rights.  The US patent office granted the patent and claims in 1993. As so wisely designed by the patent system, the methods taught by the '496 patent are now in the public domain.


Supporting Links 

GW Design Patent US 708,188 for USB/Flash Drive design.

GW Design Patent US 702,697 for USB/Flash Drive design.
SPIE Laser Damage Symposium
Laser Wikipedia page
Plasma Wikipedia page


The above background information is not offered as legal advice or a legal opinion.  For legal advice, any concerned party should seek their own counsel.