Shimano has used part of the EGS patents in its Auto D gruppo but has never gone all the way and improved on the concept. Nevertheless, the Japanese manufacturer will probably be none too pleased that one of those behind EGS is up and running again with products slimmer, but similar, to EGS products.
In 2002, Rolland's brother Sebastian formed a Nantes-based company called Etcetera. This company is now planning to produce and market the handlebar shifters.
Patent lawyers earn fortunes from making sure their clients don't fall foul of patent infringement suits so, no doubt, the Rolland bros have equipped themselves with the best legal-eagles in France...
Letter from Christian Gauthier
Ive read with great care your article dated Friday 29th August 2003 explaining the project of Mr Rolland.
As the former Co-Founder and President of EGS, I would like to draw your attention of a few inaccuracies which appeared in the article. Knowing your personal integrity and objectivity, Im sure that you did not have those information and that, as such, you might have been misled. Hence, in view to restore the truth for your readers, I would be most grateful if you would publish those lines. Norbert Rolland is presented in the article as the founder of EGS [now corrected, ED]. Actually, EGS was founded in April 1996 by Franck Savard and myself. Norbert Rolland was hired as an employee in September 1996 (viz.6 months after the effective creation)as the Project manager for the industrialisation of the first version of the Synchro Shift. On account of the difficulties he had to face to tune this product as well as the bad relationships he had with our partners, we had to hire a more experienced person to supervise the overall project. Norbert Rolland is presented as one of the brains of EGS. Here also, this affirmation is inaccurate. All the innovation owned by EGS have been designed by Franck Savard, mainly prior to the creation of EGS. Franck Savard and myself were owners of the intellectual property on a 50/50 basis till July 1998, where we brought them into EGS. Some of the innovations were then industrialised by EGS, like the Synchro Shift and the horizontal rear derailleur Up Cage. Their development were manned by several Project Managers, including Norbert Rolland. It might be interesting here to precise that, following his failure to develop the Synchro Shift, we had entrusted to Mr Rolland the development of the Horizontal rear derailleur Up Cage, as a second chance. Here again, Norbert Rolland failed to deliver the goods and to manage the project till its final phase and the Management of the EGS was planning to get rid of him. This decision could, however, not be implemented before EGSs filing for bankruptcy. A chapter of your article also suggests that Shimano has used the patents owned by Norbert Rolland for its Auto D group. Undoubtedly, it should be a confusion with the old patents owned by EGS. Unless, those concerned patents have been filed by Norbert Rolland after the liquidation of EGS and which are not directly linked to the numerous R&D carried out during the time of EGS. It is important for me to pinpoint that all EGS employees, particularly those of the R&D department, had the obligation to propose to EGS the filing of patents in the bike business resulting from their work while they were still under contract. It is not my duty to appreciate if the Synchroniser developed by the Rolland Bros infringes or not the former EGS patents, owned by Shimano since July 2000. However, it is important for you to know that we have drafted the Synchro Shift patent in the widest possible way in order to limit the risk that other devices give the same result. Shimano benefits, at the minimum, from the same level of protection. The eventual dispute which could be conducted on the validity of the intellectual property of the Rolland Bros could not only harm the later. But their partners and future clients will be put into difficulty too. In any case, should any dispute arise, I would be conducted to give to Shimano or to any party, which would feel that its rights have been infringed by the counterfeiting, objective information on the industrial property of EGS and the works done by the R&D department.
Moreover, on the commercial side, you indicate that Dawes was the only bike manufacturer to have specified the Synchro Shft. The reality is totally different, even though, with regards to tuning difficulties mentioned above, EGS products came to market two years after its original plan. In total, circa 200 000 Synchro Shift have been sold in OEM. For instance, Decathlon has equipped more than 30 000 bikes. More than 40 000 shifters have been delivered to Brunswick following a three-year contract with WalMart on many hundred thousand bikes. In the UK, Raleigh had also ordered the Synchro Shift. Prestigious brands like Cannondale, Peugeot down to Multiple stores were also the clients of EGS. In short, for the season 2000, 73 brands did spec the Synchro Shift.