...Of new designs and the licensing thereof...


Gold Member
Oct 3, 1998
Just a hypothetical thought...I'm not too sure how it all works, but if a company were to use an outside designer's design in its product-without actually licensing the design-and then another company actually purchases the rights to produce the design, can the purchasing company force the first company to stop production?

Somewhat confusing, and I bet the answer isn't too clear cut (no pun intended)...And, no, I'm not spreading any rumors, or starting any rumors...it's just a thought...


If the design is patented properly(no loopholes) the owner of that design can go to court to prevent copying for the life of the patent.

In the REAL world of manufacturing the short product lifespan of consumer goods such as knives coupled with the high cost of litigation it simply isn't practical for most manufacturers to go that route.

Those loopholes I mentioned are in most design patents and sometimes by simply changing the hole shape in the blade even the spiderco round hole patent can be circumvented. It aint nice or fair but that is the way it is.

If someone copies a design of mine I will have to shrug my shoulders and live with it because I don't have the deep pockets to pursue legal action.

In short, If the design is not patented forget legal action. If the patent is flawed forget legal action. If you do not have deep pockets forget legal action.

[This message has been edited by george tichbourne (edited 22 May 1999).]
I believe it is not possible to obtain a patent on something if another company can show they've already been producing it for some time. So in your example, if no patent was applied before the first company began using the design, there is no way the second company could get exclusive rights to it.

I appreciate your comments, Mr. Tichbourne. A patent is indeed a tough thing to acquire, tougher to keep from being easily circumvented, and even tougher to pursue action on if it is directly violated. Doesn't Spyderco hold not only the "hole," but their pocket clip and serrations as well? But because these must be specifically defined in the patent terms, other companies freely produce knives with different hols, different clips, and different serration patterns. This can, of course, be viewed as a double-edged sword; imagine the monopoly a company might achieve if it could pattent something as vague as "serrations."

There is one thing that can be done to protect individuals' or companies' designs, however, besides legal action. The consumer can say no to knock-offs and ripoffs, and refuse to buy a copied knife. Yes, most of these copies are of such poor quality that the informed consumer will not be interested anyhow, but there are some knives out there that reproduce others' designs in passable quality, yet should nevertheless be boycotted.

There are several examples, but I am thinking specifically of Junglee Knives, especially their folder line. I once complained to the editor of a major knife mag after his publication reviewed a Junglee knife that was a clear rip-off. He responded that he was aware this knife and others he mentioned were stolen designs, and had complained to the company, but that much of a knife magazine's income comes from advertising for such items and he was effectively powerless. Make of that what you will, but we, the consumers, are not powerless. Don't buy copied knives!


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
Corduroy makes an excellent point. I would never buy a 'knock-off' design. In most cases it is foolish to do so, because the original is invariably of higher quality. By supporting the original designers and manufacturers we are helping to ensure their success. This means they will be able to produce even more designs for us to lust after. And as an aside, I doubt these 'copy cat' manufacturers (regardless of how large the company is) will have the same level of customer service as a company like Spyderco.

"Walk softly and carry a big folder... and a small folder... and a SAK... and a multi-tool..."
I've been thinking about it and wondering if perhaps I'm being a bit hypocritical in my favorite choice among fixed blades (which I have little need for, generally) - Blackjack Knives. I always sorta assumed that they had some agreement with the Randalls, but in retrospect I never heard that stated explicitly. Does anyone know? And similarly there is the CS "R1 Military Classic" ... but I'm fairly certain there was no agreement behind that one.

Of course, there is a point at which a design becomes "universal," so widely known and made that it must be considered public property. How many makers out there credit Bob Loveless every time they make a tapered-tang drop-point? I'm happy to acknowledge that he started them, but I don't feel I need his permission to make one without being a "theif." Does the Randall Model 1 qualify for "universal" status?

One other gripe, and if this is aimed squarely at CS, I can't help that: taking an ancient design and attempting to hold rights to it. Cold Steel has repeatedly taken inspiration from ancient knives, and that is excellent. But I recently read that they have patented the "Nogales clip-point." Go to their own site and you can read how Lynn Thompson found the shape of this piece in the Moroccan Yataghan, an ingeniously curved blade that Burton speaks highly of in "The Book of the Sword" (p.123, 134, 163, 166, 265 - Dover 1987 edition). Yet what does Mr. Thompson do next with this ancient shape? Patent it!

Now, I have no problem with a company patenting a genuinely new shape - it's my understanding that Spyderco holds a patent on the Civilian's unique S-curve. But to take a design that is centuries old (and has even in the previous century been adopted as a terrible bayonet by the French) and put a US patent on it? That irks me more than a little. How do folks feel about this?


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
You are right about being unable to patent an item which has been manufactured before Corduroy. One of the basic warnings given to new inventors is not to produce any product for sale prior to patent application or the design will be deemed to be in the public domain and as such is unpatentable or at very least your ability to enforce your patent is nil.

CS may have written their patent around a feature of the yataghan not necessarily the blade shape. The blade shape will be deemed to be in the public domain by any court in either the US or Canada and as such is unpatentable. I wonder if this is the type of nuisance patent such as the one a few years ago on the term "liner lock".

I have made yataghans in the past and possibly will in the future as long as I refer to them as yataghan, or in the yataghan style I expect no problems.


Just my 2 cents on this interesting topic. I think when you see companies use "PATENTED" in there advertising, it is mainly for advertising. I have heard this from people who design ads. The idea is to make the product sound like it is unique to your company or that any other product that looks like it, is not as good as yours. Most of these ads are targeted at the casual knife buyer or the person who is just getting into the hobby. For the most part, the people really into some aspect of knives and collecting will avoid the knock offs or they'll purchase a knife on it's merits, not it's advertising.