Let me begin by saying: I am not a lawyer and therefore I am not going to pontificate on anything regarding legalities. However, I would contend that you do not need to be a legal expert to arrive at what is ethical and moral. There are many things that are ‘legal’ to do that many of us could agree are not the ‘right’ or ‘ethical’ or ‘stand-up’ thing to do.
I have had many long conversations with may creative people about ideas, designs, intellectual property, ethics etc.
An idea is something that is hard to quantify in many cases and brings up many questions such as:
Who ‘owns’ an idea?
For how long do they ‘own’ it?
When does an evolution of an existing idea become its own idea?
Who should profit from an idea?
Answers to these questions are not always so black and white (in the moral sense that we are speaking of. I mean at one time, cars were guided by a tiller steering method until somebody had the bright idea to use a steering wheel instead. Does the steering wheel guy own that ‘idea’ forever? Should his descendants still get paid for its use?
The thing I enjoy most about being in this business is dealing with the people and companies that we represent. It is a pleasure to work with these individuals that are passionate about crafting their products. So, in our little knife world there are many cases where there are accusations of so and so ripped off so and so etc. Many things that can be argued either way in that ‘gray’ area between the outright stealing of an idea and evolving on something already produced.
Then there are things like the pocket clip introduced by Sal Glesser of Spyderco or say the frame-lock knife introduced by Chris Reeve. There are millions (literally) of knives that use one or the other and they are not paying Mr. Glesser or Mr. Reeve for their ‘idea’. These things (like the steering wheel mentioned earlier) have become almost ubiquitous in the design of modern folding knives. Point being again, that these are not always easy things to arrive at what the ‘right’ thing is,
However, there are instances where the stealing is so offensive, so blatant, and such an obvious attempt to cash in on the hard work of another that it is pretty easy (at least in my eyes) to determine what is ‘wrong’. Monkey Edge is proud to represent the work of Japanese artist Hidetoshi Nakayama in the USA. Mr. Nakayama is an extremely gifted artist who can seemingly do it all from carving wood, silver smithing, knife making, pen crafting, and on and on. Perhaps Hidetoshi’s best known work are his exquisitely crafted bolt action pens available in many different configurations. They are a very distinct design style. So imagine my disappointment when customers started telling us about the Cannon pen by a company called Bastion LLC. Obviously Hidetoshi Nakyama does not have any patents or ‘legal’ claims on his design in the USA. He is an individual artist that hand crafts every piece. Not some company with a legal department.
So on 9/16/16 I sent the following email to Bastion LLC through their website:
We are the US agent for Japanese artist Hidetoshi Nakayama. Hidetoshi has worked long and hard to develop a following for his hand crafted work and his signature bolt action pens. We noticed that your Cannon pen is almost an exact duplicate of Mr. Nakayama's work. Mr. Nakayama is a full time artist and craftsman and it is how he makes his living. We respectfully ask that you stop selling your Cannon pen that is directly derivative of his work. You can contact me at the above information if you have any questions.
To which I received the reply below:
On September 19, 2016 at 8:26:27 AM, Bastion Gear (email@example.com) wrote:
Thank you for your email and bringing this to our attention.
We were not aware of this design and did patent research for bolt action pen before selling.
We had a small batch done which we would like to sell off and then we will re-work the design.
To which I replied:
On September 19, 2016 at 2:23:37 PM, Brady Miller - Monkey Edge (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
Thank you for getting back to us so quickly. Please understand I am not casting aspersions here. I am not sure if your design work was done in house, or outsourced, but whoever designed your Cannon EDC pen was more than just ‘inspired’ by the work of Hidetoshi Nakayama.
In this small and tight knit business there are many designs that have their inspirations from another person’s ideas, but they are taken in a totally different direction. For instance, if you look at some of the attached pictures of work from Brian Fellhoelter, he readily admits that he was inspired by Mr. Nakayama’s bolt action design. However, he applied it in a totally different manner and had a unique overall design. Nobody would say that Fellhoelter’s TiBolt pen is a copy of Mr. Nakayama’s.
However, if you look at the attached pictures of Mr. Nakayama’s pens, you can see that not only the mechanism, but the whole design of your Cannon EDC pen is virtually identical to his down to the lanyard loop. In fact we were made aware of the pen when customers called us asking if Mr. Nakayama had licensed his design.
I am not a lawyer, and therefore I am not qualified to speak in legal terms such as patents etc. I tend to view things in terms of ethics and what is the 'right thing' to do. In this scenario we have a small, independent, artist who has worked for years crafting a reputation and demand for his work. In I don’t think it is ‘right thing’ to do a more mass produced and lower priced version of his handcrafted work to take advantage of that demand. How you handle things is up to you.
Owner | Monkey Edge
email@example.com | http://www.monkeyedge.com
O: 480.305.6422 Ext. 302 | C:602.492.7239
Again, I do not look at things in a legal manner and I wanted to give Bastion LLC the chance to do the ‘right’ thing. They have chosen not to. As of this writing (02/21/2017) Bastion LLC is still selling this blatant rip off of Hidetoshi Nakyama’s signature product. So if you are to believe Bastion LLC’s story, they were not aware of Hidetoshi’s design, and the Cannon pen is just a co-inky-dink. You tell me:
Not only is it a copy, it is a low rent knock-off. The first thing my machinist/designer buddy said when I showed him the two was “wow, what a blatent rip off, but notice how they cheaped out and did not do the milled flats like Hidetoshi’s? They would have needed secondary operations or live tooling”.
You know what really pisses me off? It is one thing to have a knock off. Anybody who buys a Rolex from a guy in a trench coat in NYC knows they are buying a cheap knock off. However, this company is trying to appear like they are a player in the knife community on the same level as companies that actually produce their own designs and goods. They even set up at BLADE Show! So, they blatantly knock off an artist, then set up at the biggest show in the knife community to sell their knock offs? LAME!
I would have had more respect for them if they said: “yeah, we stole his design, there is nothing him, you, or anybody else can do about it!” At least that would be honest. If you are going to be a low-life, at least stand up and own it rather than this weak-ass “oh, we didn’t know about his design” excuse.
Like I said, not a legal issue, but an ethical one. There is no ‘cease and desist’ letters or anything. Bastion LLC was respectfully informed and requested to do what was right and chose to crap all over the community they purport to serve. Like I said, what makes this knock off even worse is that they are trying to make real inroads to the knife community. In other words, not the trenchcoat guy selling the Folex. The trenchcoat guy is basically acknowledging he is selling fake crap by the way he does business. What is more dangerous is the brick and mortar shop set up across the street selling goods that try to look like the real thing.
All Monkey Edge can do is put out the word and ask people to support the original artist. Oh, and if you want to let this Bastion LLC know what you think of things, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or see them at their BLADE Show booth #735.