Frangible bullets invention article


September 7, 2006, 03:43 PM
This is an interesting (to me) article about the invention of frangible bullets and patenting the idea.

With a Bullet
Jenna Greene
IP Law & Business

Joseph Benini was a small-town engineer with an idea about bullets. He never expected to find a big-city patent lawyer who would immediately grasp his concept -- for a lead-free bullet that wouldn't ricochet -- let alone become his friend.

In 1998 Benini, a self-described "rural person," journeyed to Washington, D.C., from his hometown of Kersey, Pa. (population 6,000) to meet with Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner partner Stephen Peterson. He knew little about Peterson or his firm, but after only a few minutes of conversation, Benini, 51, recalls, "I was thinking it was almost too good to be true. There was a connection there."

Working out of his garage, Benini, an avid target shooter and a trained engineer, had developed a new kind of ammunition by combining copper and tin powder at a low heat. The resulting bullet could pass through soft material, like flesh. If it hit a hard object like a steel target, the bullet would crumble into dust, eliminating the possibility of ricochet. The bullet could also inflict minimal damage to the fuselage of an airplane, a crucial issue for armed air marshals after 9/11. It was also environmentally friendly, as it contained no lead.

The invention fell squarely within Peterson's sights. The 61-year-old Finnegan partner had studied materials science as an undergraduate and in graduate school and had worked as a metallurgist. Peterson was well acquainted with firearms, having spent six years as an infantryman in the Marine Reserves in the early 1970s. And, in his spare time, Peterson likes to hunt and target shoot. "I knew the vocabulary," says Peterson, who has also worked on patents related to armored vehicles, anti-armor weapons and ceramic superconductors. "It was easy to communicate with [Benini]."

The meeting was the start of an enduring professional relationship as Benini turned his idea into a small but thriving company known as SinterFire.

Patenting the original invention was crucial to his company's success. Benini had met with scientists at nearby Penn State University and outlined his concept for making ammunition. "They suggested I protect the idea, and Steve's name popped out of the mix," Benini says.

Peterson wrote the original patent application in 1998 covering the bullet and method of making it. The patent issued in July 2000. A second patent covering the cartridge was issued a year later. Peterson also secured eight design patents between 2000 and 2005 and worked with counsel abroad to patent the invention in 19 countries. In the United States, Peterson notes, the prosecution was speeded by the fact that there was "no existing technology, or prior art, that was legally troublesome."

SinterFire launched in 1999 and grossed more than $5 million in sales last year, says Benini. Customers include Alliant Techsystems Inc., Olin Corp. and Winchester Ammunition. But with success came copycat products. "SinterFire is testing the bullets made by others and has an issue with a former employee who may have disclosed SinterFire technology," Peterson says, adding that they are "attempting to resolve these issues informally, but litigation is an option."

Peterson also continues to work with Benini on new patents, filing one new (although not yet public) application. On a recent trip to Kersey, the pair worked in the morning and spent the afternoon target shooting. Then Peterson stayed overnight with Benini and his family at their house.

As Benini puts it: "Aside from paying [Peterson] megabucks for IP work, we've developed a personal friendship that's based on honesty, trust and understanding."

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Jim K
September 7, 2006, 05:08 PM
The method and materials used are new, but frangible bullets date back to at least WWII when they were made by the millions for practice by bomber gunners on specially armored fighter aircraft. Like the bullets described, they would penetrate a person, but blow up on a hard surface. (They were obviously not intended to be fired at people, but they were certainly considered deadly.) They also contained graphite, which had the advantage of leaving marks on the target so the gunner's ability could be assessed.

They were made in .30-'06 and can be identified by the gray bullet with a white and green tip.

In addition, shooting gallery bullets made from antimony were very common and will blow into dust on hitting even a fairly thin steel plate.


September 9, 2006, 11:00 AM
Joseph Benini is no engineer he worked in a powdered metal plant yes and worked on the frangible project. The original application was filed in three names and thru borderline fraud Steve Peterson and Joe abandoned the first application and refiled a new one listing himself as sole inventor (old application link!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_CH/.cmd/ad/.ar/sa.getBib/.ps/N/.c/6_0_69/.ce/7_0_3AB/.p/5_0_341/.d/3?selectedTab=fileHistorytab&isSubmitted=isSubmitted&dosnum=09063924).

Joe has also practically stolen his investors money and with his DC attorneys used intimidation and less than ethical practices to remove competition. Since he has no original Ideas or technology I don't put water to thier threats of litigation.

Double Naught Spy
September 9, 2006, 01:56 PM
Apparently in 1999, Mr. and Mrs. Benini were fired from their jobs at CMT, Continuous Metal Technology where both were employed and the company originally slated for production and distribution of Sinterfire bullets.

Henry Bowman
September 9, 2006, 10:49 PM
As Benini puts it: "Aside from paying [Peterson] megabucks for IP work, we've developed a personal friendship that's based on honesty, trust and understanding."Megabucks... *sigh*.

And to think of all the pro bono hours I given writing patents for gun related inventions...:(

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