The Value of Trademarks
Trademarks For Corrosion Resistant Alloys31st May 2019
In everyday life we are surrounded by product trademarks as an important part of the marketing mix – trying to identify target groups of consumers and getting them to choose your product over that of a competitor. A product trademark is one part of the overall brand, and can be a short-cut for the complete specification of a product. For instance, a Tiffany diamond ring infers a degree of quality for the gemstone and workmanship without having to go into the detailed specification. In the most extreme case, a trademark may even become a universal designator of that product type. Think ‘Hoover’ when describing the humble vacuum, or ‘Googling’ an internet search even if other search engines are (still) available.
So, how does this concept relate to corrosion resistant alloys?
Perhaps the most commonly used trademarks in our market are those relating to nickel alloys. The likes of Monel, Incoloy and Inconel are all registered trademarks of Special Metals Corporation. As the original inventors of these alloys, they created a series of product family names and then a specific alloy designation. For instance, Incoloy is a family of nickel-iron-chrome alloys, and 825 the designation for one of the more widely used alloys in that family, hence Incoloy 825. Other common designations within the markets we serve are Inconel 625, Inconel 718, Inconel 725, Monel 400, Monel K500 and Incoloy 925. Inconel is the Special Metals Corporation family of nickel-chromium alloys and Monel their family of nickel-copper alloys.
The development of new alloys may have been subject to patent protect -but patents typically last for up to 25 years, after which point competitors are able to use the information in the patent document in an attempt to make equivalent products. However, the intrinsic know-how required to manufacture, test and certify technically demanding products means that sometimes the information not contained in the patent can be as valuable as that within. At this point, the value of the trademark is to help distinguish between different suppliers, and potentially different levels of quality, consistency, availability or support.
The Special Metals Corporation trademarks (Monel, Incoloy, Inconel) are used by many as the default name for such alloys despite not being sourced from the original producer. Controlling use of the trademark in modern times is increasingly difficult, the challenge of a ‘cut-and-paste’ approach by numerous traders and intermediaries!
Langley Alloys experience of trademarked alloys
These issues are familiar to Langley Alloys too. We invented super duplex stainless steels – Ferralium 255 was the very first one to be marketed and now has more than 50 years successful application in the most demanding environments. Again, the original invention was patented by Langley Alloys, but over the passage of time other manufacturers have sought to replicate the unique properties of this widely specified alloy. The generic caption UNS S32550 may provide the outline compositional limits, but Ferralium 255-SD50 has a number of important differentiators. Firstly, we specify far lower levels of impurities, thereby limiting the existence of inclusions which can be the starting point for pitting corrosion. We also carefully control the composition within the published limits to ensure the optimum austenite:ferrite ratio. The manufacturing conditions are similarly optimised. This ‘know-how’ ensures Ferralium 255-SD50 is the only super duplex to achieve 85ksi yield strength, and guarantee a maximum weight loss of <0.8g/m2 in the ASTM G48 test at 50degC (where the standard limit is 5x higher at 4.0g.m2).
Nitronic 50 is a trademark of AK Steel Corporation, and again is widely specified. The trademark is perhaps not quite as strong as those nickel alloy ones described previously however, as the generic XM-19 designation is used equally. Langley Alloys’ Fermonic 50 is not just an alternative trademark. For the smaller diameters, our manufacturing route is unique to us, and ensures we can achieve the desired ‘High Strength’ properties across the widest possible range of bar diameters.
There are a great many other trademarks within the Langley Alloys portfolio. Our oldest may well be Hidurax, of which Hidurax special is the original name for Hiduron 130. Hidurax was trademarked in 1939, when this family of alloys was being developed for naval applications. Refined over time, Hiduron 130, Hiduron 191 and Hidurel 5 still provide superior performance to competitor’s alternatives.
Just like Special Metals Corp. and AK Steel Corp. our own trademarks are subject to abuse. Although our technical content and literature is often plagiarised, we maintain such levels of stock, and in a range of sizes, that we make it easier for customers to access these unique products directly. In addition, our experienced team – including several metallurgists – allows us to work with specifiers on the more complex applications where are trademarked products can best demonstrate their value.
Monel, Incoloy and Inconel are registered trademarks of Special Metals Corporation.
Nitronic is a registered trademark of AK Steel Corporation.
Ferralium, Fermonic, Hiduron and Hidurel are registered trademarks of Langley Alloys Ltd.Alloy 825The difference between S31803 and S32205