Last time I did some digging around I found that Sysmax d.b.a. JetBeam's business practices left much to be desired. Here is that article. When I posted it I got a flood of emails from other folks in the custom flashlight world that pointed out other things that Sysmax was doing that were less than honorable. After some more digging based on those emails, here is what I have discovered.
The Niteye Issue
Trying to sort through all of the d.b.a.s (doing business as) of a company is always a tough job. Doing that through a language barrier of a company from China is impossible. We know for sure that Sysmax is also Nitecore and JetBeam. Their websites say so. The question is, whether or not they are also a company called Niteye. Whether they are is important for another reason, which I will lay out in a minute. Here is what I know:
On Niteye's home page there is a post about Niteye and JetBeam attending a trade show together. In that post, the two brands, JetBeam and Niteye are listed as brands of a company called "Shenzhen JetBeam Electronic Technology Co. Ltd." How this company fits into the Sysmax structure is unclear, but it is clear that Sysmax owns JetBeam (see here noting the text and the posters in the top picture). We also know that JetBeam and Niteye are two brands of the same company. So, by operation of logic, if Sysmax owns JetBeam and Niteye and JetBeam are two brands of the same company, then Sysmax must also own Niteye. Nothing says this on any of the companys' or brands' websites, but it seems hard to not come to that conclusion. This says nothing about the fact that ALL of Niteye's lights are badge swaps of JetBeam lights. This in and of itself is probably not enough to conclude, for sure, that they are the same company as a lot of gear is made by one company and sold by another (for example, SanRenMu makes the knife that CRKT sells as the Drifter). But the badge swaps, plus the company literature pairing the brands together makes me think that there is more than enough evidence to say:
Okay, so all that detective work is important why? Because Niteye made this:
Look familiar? Look anything like, I don't know, a Spy 007? Here is the Spy 007:
Okay, so here is the sales link for the Niteye Zip 20 (which is $459.00). The Zip 20 is listed as a "100% Brand New, Original Niteye Products". Someone else did a little detective work when this light was released. Here is the CPF thread. Here Dave acknowledges the theft of his intellectual property (post #21).
I think it is safe to say that this is at least the third ripoff by Sysmax, the first being the McGizmo clip, the second being the PD styling and heat sinks, and now this. Of course this says nothing about the fact that Sysmax gave Don a token payment for use of the PD system, then went behind his back and patented it.
I am not surprised in any way that someone out there is ripping off these designs. What is surprising is that it is a major company, not some fly-by-night pirate organization. What is more galling about this whole thing is that Sysmax does quite a bit to cover up their actions between all of the shell companies and gray market associates all the way to their touting (see banner at bottom of page) their participation in PLATO. Nice. Be in an industry group that works against unfair business practices while you are pillaging the intellectual property of true innovators for your own benefit.
EZ Series is a Ripoff
Let's not pretend that the pillaging and IP theft ends there. Let's get a little more specific and look at another series of lights that Sysmax produced, this time through their Nitecore label. Anyone remember the EZ series of lights? Here is the line's product page (their US page is gone now). The light worked by using a two-stage twisty. It had a simple body tube and a large brass heat sink. Sound familiar? Okay, maybe not, but what about this:
VERY similar both in appearance and function. I spoke to Enrique about this and he confirmed that the design is a straight rip off and that he did not get compensation for it. Ultimately the EZ series was discontinued, except for the AA model which was revised, because of poor quality control. The light designed like the Aeon couldn't quite to all of the things the Aeon did and disappeared. Nonetheless, Sysmax again did this without Enrique's permission. The form factor being lifted doesn't bother me so much. The Aeon itself bears a striking resemblance to the Larry light, as I referenced in the Aeon review. It is the engineering inside that makes the light what it is and that is what Sysmax tried to steal.
Theft number 4.
Now there is a lot of other information swirling around out there. Some of it implicates other people, but without more conclusive information I chose not to implicate them. There were not enough independent sources to confirm other folks involvement, though the sources I had were very reliable ones.
The evidence about Sysmax is pretty clear though and the conclusion is inescapable. I have laid it out for you and you can follow the investigation through the links and pictures for yourself. The bottom line is that Sysmax pillaging intellectual property on a massive level. They are taking the inventions of hard working, small time inventors and using it for their own gain.
These inventors are the very people that spur our economy on. They make it big and better. They are how the US competes in a global market. We don't make a lot of stuff anymore. But we make innovative stuff and that is why we can still compete.
More than a patriotic tone though, this sort of theft really does hurt innovation. The guys like Don, Dave, and Enrique that push innovation lose the incentive to do so if some mega corp can just swoop in and steal their work. As a lawyer, I know a few people that do IP work. If you are a small time maker and want help, email me and I will try to send you to the right people. I can't promise anything other than a referral.
As for Sysmax, do what you want with this information. I am not going to tell you not to buy their stuff, but think about it before you do. Do you really want to reward a company that does business like this?