(Photography by Don Kadair: Matt Hatley and Edward Daigle of CAP Technologies)
Behind the invention: Eddie Daigle, president of CAP Technologies
Number of patents: 4
The patent bill to date: $376,000
On a quiet street lined with live oaks near the heart of Denham Springs, trucks come and go from a nondescript 50,000-square-foot warehouse, carrying industrial-sized shipments of wire on spools.
Coming in, the wires are brown from corrosion. Going out, they look as good as new—silver and shiny, ready to be used for everything from medical and airline applications to guitar strings.
The transformation that takes place inside the Denham Springs warehouse not only changes the appearance of the wires, but the physical and chemical composition of the metals as well.
Using technology that has its roots in Russian research dating back to 1929, one seasoned Capital Region inventor and entrepreneur has uncovered a way to build on the discoveries of others to bring his own complex green process for wire cleaning and coating to commercialization.
Eddie Daigle unknowingly began his journey toward launching his third company in 1995 while based in Russia, working in the oil, gas and marine construction industries. When a group of Russian scientists brought the untapped technology to his attention, they collectively deemed its potential worth patenting for future commercialization. They traveled to London, where they sat down with patent attorneys and translators to write an application. While the technology detailed in the first patent application was never successfully commercialized, Daigle and his Russian partner used the same base technology to develop the second generation of their processes, which became the core patent for the company he founded in 2001: CAP Technologies LLC.
Daigle’s method for cleaning and coating metals is unique for a variety of reasons. The environmentally friendly Electro Plasma Technology allows CAP to process materials of different sizes and shapes, while retaining the properties of the base metal, at a price comparable to conventional processes.
The method’s novelty and value in the marketplace is the result of strategic protection the company secured through Daigle’s second-generation base patent, as well as three other patents he holds for subsequent discoveries made in the ongoing research and development efforts by his employees. He has since filed for two more nonprovisional patents and is in the process of filing for another provisional patent.
“Research on this technology probably will never stop because there are a lot of things that this technology is capable of,” Daigle says. CAP currently works with numerous international and national companies across a broad spectrum of uses of the technology, including medical, airline and wastewater treatment applications. It’s also used in coating guitar strings for large music companies.
CAP’s process for applying silver coating to stainless steel wire for food industry uses has been proven 100% effective against E-coli and Salmonella, Daigle says. As a result of the success of variations of coating like the silver coated wire, CAP is currently in discussions with another company interested in starting trails for medical applications and applying silver to other metal substrates.
“In addition, we received word that our nickel on brass wire music strings received unprecedented acclaim at the [National Association of Music Merchants] music conference in Anaheim, California,” Daigle says. “These are examples of how the electro-plasma process can impact industries that have depended on conventional processes for many years.”
As the company continues innovate and expand into new industries, Daigle must continually evaluate whether or not new discoveries merit the investment of pursuing additional patents. After filing an invention with the USPTO, Daigle typically files with the International Patent System and then evaluates which countries his technology may need patenting. With his four issued protections to date and three others in the works, Daigle estimates that he has already spent about $376,000 on patents.
“It is growing every day,” Daigle says. “Those fees don’t stop.”
WORTH THE COST
Nonetheless, in the grand scheme of his business, Daigle says his investment in patents has been “absolutely worth it.” With his extensive experience in patenting complex technology, he finds ways to cut costs—like writing the patents himself to minimize the amount of time needed with a patent attorney. One method Daigle employs to save on patenting—while also limiting how much of his operation is out in the public domain—is maintaining his formulas for wire coating as trade secrets.
However, Daigle and his team recently re-evaluated the pros and cons of keeping the formulas a secret. He describes the considerations as “games within the market.”
“No one else has our process, but having a formula patented is a great marketing tool and shows industry you think you really have something unique,” Daigle explains. “When the annual annuities begin to increase in cost, you simply drop the patent. Our trade secrets are primarily know how and for coating formulas. We would not patent that information because that puts it in the public domain, even though no one can use it without our process.”
He expects to file the provisional application for one more patent in the coming weeks, which he considers a major technology: The third generation of his cleaning and coating process.
Daigle is also currently exploring numerous licensing opportunities. The challenge is determining the approach that best benefits the company from a strategic standpoint. “Those patents, I don’t want it going out to everybody,” Daigle explains. “I want to keep it close to our vest in companies we can trust in a way that we know is going to provide benefit to our investors.”
Although his second-generation process patent doesn’t expire until 2020, Daigle takes extreme care in guarding against others in the industry who may try to steal or modify his discoveries for their own means of commercialization.
Notes Daigle: “It is something you constantly have to be on the lookout for.”