Grab the pitchforks: Smith & Wesson edition
James Debney, President and CEO of Smith & Wesson, said, “I would like to clarify that we fully support the Brownells Dream Guns® Project and we appreciate that it showcases the many ways in which our customers – loyal fans of our M&P brand – can choose to customize their M&P firearms. Our decision to contact the companies that worked on the project was intended to protect the trademarks that support the M&P brand. When a product bears the Smith & Wesson and M&P trademarks and is purchased new with our lifetime service policy, we want to be sure that the consumer knows it has passed our demanding quality standards. In our efforts to protect that promise and to preserve the brand that we and our customers cherish, we did not fully understand the intent of the Dream Guns® Project and we overlooked the opportunity to convey our enthusiasm for the creativity and innovation that Brownells and all of the companies involved have demonstrated. We look forward to seeing the firearm on display at the upcoming SHOT Show in January and at the NRA in May.”
Oh, good lord, now they’ve gone and done it. Smith & Wesson has angered the legions of internet outrage artists. Here is the quick run down if you aren’t aware yet.
Brownell’s has a feature called Dream Guns. These guns are tricked out versions of popular firearms. You can visit them at Brownells.com. From there you can click on them and see the parts included that Brownell’s sells.
For one of the next Dream Guns, the idea was to make an awesome showpiece to display at SHOT Show 2016. They started with an M&P Pro and partnered with Apex Tactical Specialties, DP Custom Works, Blown Deadline and SSVi. Everyone did their part and the end result is a really nice looking gun.
This entire situation is related to one gun, ie Dream Gun that is called out in a press release by APEX Tactical Specialties.
This is where it gets saucy. Smith & Wesson’s lawyers have sent cease and desist letters to all involved notifying them that this is unacceptable. It’s important to note here that a company is REQUIRED to defend their trademark. By not pursuing infringements they stand open to losses.
A trademark owner is not required to uncover all possible uses that might conflict, or immediately commence a lawsuit against every possible infringer. At the same time, a complete failure to enforce will lead to a weakening of an owner’s marks and loss of distinctiveness over time.
Please see Abraham v. Alpha Chi Omega for more details.
Smith & Wesson is not only within their rights, but they are required to vigorously defend their property. These cease and desist letters start out fine. Whether we agree with it or not they are well within their rights. The gun is intended to be exhibited at SHOT Show and is still branded with the Smith & Wesson logo and service marks. By stepping into their shoes, one could see how they might take umbrage to this. The letters continue to cite case law and precedent. They make assertions that this situation could result in confused consumers. Again, well within their rights whether we agree or not.
NOW, HAVING SAID THAT…
This is when things get ridiculous. Smith & Wessons attorneys DEMAND that;
1. All parties confirm in writing that no one will display the product at SHOT Show or make any other display or promotion of the product.
2. Cease the sale of any firearm modified by any of the parties listed that bear any Smith & Wesson trademarks.
3. Turn over to Smith & Wesson all inventory of the infringing product or any S&W product modified by the listed parties that bears any mark owned by Smith & Wesson.
Item 1 I can understand. Items 2 and 3 are where they have lost their fucking minds.
The questions I have now are;
- If the logo and service marks are taken off of the guns, are the modifications ok?
- Is the SilencerCo integrally suppressed pistol falling under these same concerns brought up by S&W? Sure it is just a proof of concept, but still has the S&W logo and markings on it.
- The letter mentions that destruction of evidence is very serious. So at this point taking the logo off is bad, but had they done it before, does it negate the concerns?
- Could they have asked them to remove the service marks and not ask for property to be turned over and still be considered to defend their trademarks?
Smith & Wesson started out ok here, look they have to defend their brand. That’s the way the world works, but the excessiveness of the demands seem to have incredibly far reaching negative repercussions throughout the entire firearms industry.
Shame on you Smith & Wesson. You need to figure out a way to defend your brand and remain good players in this industry. As of now, we’re pissed.