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Will Benchmades "lock" on the Axis lock expire?


knife law moderator
Dec 25, 1998
Will there ever be a time when other companies can use the Axis lock or will Benchmade have sole possession forever?

Dennis Bible


[This message has been edited by shootist16 (edited 12-03-2000).]
The McHenry and Williams patent #5737841, Pocket knife with Lock, which describes the 'axis' lock, was granted 4/14/98. Patents run for 17 years. That means the owner of the patent assignments have until the year 2015 to exploit the advantages of their invention.

This patent still belongs to McHenry and Williams. So I am guessing that Benchmade has licensed the invention. That means they have purchased the right to use the invention. They Do Not own it. I don't know if Benchmade's license is exclusive or not. It is possible that McHenry and Williams could license the axis lock's use to others if their agreement is not exclusive with respect to Benchmade. Also, Benchmade may not have paid for the rights to this invention for the full term of the patent protection period.

The invention itself is protected until 2015 assuming McHenry and Williams want to take legal action to prevent someone from using this invention. Patent enforcement is up to the holder, not the government.

McHenry and Williams have a more recent patent (#6,122,829) for a folding tool which sounds similar. The one was granted 9/26/00 and sounds similar to the axis lock. It is assigned (sold) to the Mentor Group, L.C.C.

Hope that helps. Check it out here:

Patent 5737841


[This message has been edited by Paracelsus (edited 12-03-2000).]

Have you looked at the "Arc Lock" from SOG? It looks like they ripped off the Axis lock, but I'm sure what they did changed it just enough to avoid being sued. I bet a lawyer designed it more than a knife maker, but that's another story. Check out SOG knives. They are pretty good, even if they do use types of steel I think are better used in dinner knives than tactical ones. Their prices are very good, if the steel they use can be accepted.

Scott D. Bieg
...and let's not forget about similar locks like the REKAT rolling lock.

However, I believe that this is not exactly a new concept as some of the knife veterans at this board have pointed out that these locks are variations on a "bolt action" lock put out years ago by...(somebody help me).

In addition, patents are particular where you can only patent a "method"; you can't patent an "idea". That is you can patent a MEANS to a solution. You can't patent the solution.

That's why companies can make variations on someone else's overall idea without paying a cent of royalties.

RE: RIP-OFF. It's said that everyone borrows ideas, but good ones borrow from the best.
Originally posted by Full Tang Clan:
In addition, patents are particular where you can only patent a "method"; you can't patent an "idea". That is you can patent a MEANS to a solution. You can't patent the solution.

That's why companies can make variations on someone else's overall idea without paying a cent of royalties.

Patent law for intellectual property is a little more complex that what you just wrote, FTC. Depending on how Inclusive the patent is, patents can indeed cover all possible 'embodiements' of an Idea.

Many pharmaceutical and biotech companies derive most of their value from their patents on ideas more than the specific applications of those ideas. You can even patent a Process. Certainly a Method is often a critical part of the explanation the intellectual property that a patent claims. But, you don't even have to produce a working model of an idea (or make a chemical) for it to be patentable.

There is an art to writing a good patent. Design patents are nearly worthless, covering only a specific design (for eample a square purple peg, instead of a round green one). Idea patents cover any number of possible designs. This is true for mechanisms, as well as chemical patents (my area of expertise). Sometimes it is possible for clever folks to 'design around' an existing area of intellectual property, sometimes not.

The axis lock patent covers any number of potential variations of the lock. That does not mean that there are not other good locks out there. But making a knife with a lock falling under the Ideas presented in the McHenry Williams patent cited above would technically infringe on their rights, and they could sue for damages. Whether another lock really infringes, or not, would be up to a court to decide.

Patents always include what is called 'prior art', or the intellectual property that others have claimed which is similar in purpose to your own. In order to be patentable, the idea has to be New, or Novel, Not be Obvious, and to have Not been previously patented or disclosed publically. That these locks are variations of a bolt-action lock does not disqualify their patentability. In fact, Mr. Collins two previous patents on the Bolt-action mechanism are both cited in the Axis lock patent as prior art. The axis lock is different enough in the eyes of the US Patent office to have been granted its own patent.

Sorry for the long post. This is my home turf here and misunderstandings about patents and trademarks are common. Just trying to help


[This message has been edited by Paracelsus (edited 12-03-2000).]
Thanks for the additional info Parcelsus.

I was giving more of a "laymen's" explanation of why it is possible that there are SIMILAR products from different manufacturers.

I shouldn't have used that word "OVERALL idea" however. I should have said similar idea.

I often talk metaphorically, and with analogies. Unfortunately, it is often taken literally and leads to misunderstanding.
FTC, the bolt action lock you may be thinking of was designed by Blackie Collins and used by Gerber. Someone else manufactures that knife now, with variants, and Smoky Mountain Knife works has been selling them cheap.
An interesting patent law argument has been going on for a while, but it has nothing to do with knives, so some of you may want to avert your eyes, and those interested may follow the link http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/01/science/01PIRA.html to the story:

The New York Times on the Web for December 1, 2000
Selling Cheap 'Generic' Drugs, India's Copycats Irk Industry by DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

BOMBAY — To anyone else, the room looks like the unprepossessing office of a college science teacher. But to the multinational pharmaceutical giants, it is the lair of a pirate king.