Monday, June 29, 2015

Cold Steel v. CRKT, Part I

NOTE: This is Part 1 of 2 of my take on the Cold Steel suit.  First up is a take on the suit from the perspective of the consumer.  Next is the legal analysis of the suit.

On June 3, Cold Steel's lawyer filed a lawsuit against CRKT in the Central California Federal District Court. That same day Cold Steel sent out a press release announcing that they had filed the suit. Cold Steel claims that CRKT's language that their lock safeties (the LAWKS, the AutoLAWKS, and the LBS) turn folders in to "virtual fixed blades" constituted false advertising under the Lanham Act.

The lawsuit is strange, but Cold Steel's behavior after was even stranger. At the end of the press release, they included an email address for further questions. I sent an email and got no response. Then I called out Cold Steel on Twitter. I wanted them to release the complaint, the official document that lays out their legal claims. Its part of the court file and the entire file is a public record. There is simply no reason for them to not release the complaint to me, as, by definition, they had to file it to start the suit. But they refused for a better part of two days. Finally, they said that Cold Steel's president, Lynn Thompson was going to address the issue on Cold Steel's site.

The statement was a regurgitation of the press release and more of a marketing stunt. Trying to play the role of dogged reporter, I contacted the Central California Federal District Court and they pointed me to PACER, the electronic court file system. I paid my fees and got access to the documents. Unfortunately, the complaint had not been uploaded, but it was noted in the records. I found the attorney of record and contacted him. He gave me the complaint in about twenty minutes. The runaround Cold Steel sent me on was entirely unnecessary. I have since sent him questions about the suit but he has not gotten back to me.

I have finished reading the complaint and while I have some intuitions about its merits, I want to do some research and read case law before I say anything about the law. Whatever the legal issues are, the reality is simple--this lawsuit is bad for everyone. It is bad for knife enthusiasts, its bad for the knife industry, and it is bad for Cold Steel.

In the past, when Cold Steel was trying to grab the spotlight with its antics like boycotting blade, the gear media was small and diffuse. It was basically two magazines--Blade and Knives Illustrated. Forum boards were in their infancy and the bloggers, like myself and many others, that follow not just the products but the business of gear were few and far between. The community is much more aware and armed with this awareness, the reaction has been swift, uniform, and brutal. Everyone has expressed disdain for Cold Steel's behavior. Since the June 3 press release and legal filings, Lynn Thompson has said that the money damages he is seeking will be donated to Knife Rights, but this seems like backpedaling. One wonders why he didn't just take the money was spent on filing the suit and donate THAT to Knife Rights, if that was his intention all along.

Why its Bad for Consumers

The knife business is full of small companies. The vast majority, including CRKT and Cold Steel, are well less than 500 employees. Only Gerber and KAI USA, both subsidiaries of much larger companies, are real corporate giants. The brands we know and love are almost all 30 or 40 folks (or less) working to make us great stuff at good prices. These are not Apple or Samsung. They do not have near infinite resources. Legal cases are time consuming, prohibitively expensive, and in the civil arena, rarely decide anything of import (most civil cases, and in fact most cases in general, settle before trial and many civil settlements are confidential). If small companies like CRKT, Cold Steel, and others are forced to engage in protracted legal battles they will have less time and money to devote to making, designing, and producing great knives for us.

This suit is bad for consumers.

Why its Bad for the Knife Business

In addition to the divided attention problem I mentioned above, there is also the issue of culture. The knife business, from custom makers to "big" companies is a interconnected and collaborative place. Sure there are some instances of bad behavior, like the ZT0777 and the Matrix, but the reason that story stood out is because of how rare and blatant it was. Thomas, one of the highest ranking officials at KAI USA not only came on Gear Geeks Live, he also did a tour on Utility Talk too. This is a small and welcoming place.

Compare that with the world of high tech and big pharma. Not only is the competition voracious, but it has become so vicious that what transpires no longer bears even a passing resemblance to classic capitalism. Instead of making products and trying to outdo each other, big tech and big pharma have basically become addicted to manipulating intellectual property laws and suing each other. Fights over patents are the heart of two enormous lawsuits--Apple v. Samsung and a collection of suits against Microsoft. Billions of dollars are at stake. In each suit a sizable chunk of each company's revenue for the year hung in the balance. Big tech companies regularly buy up vast troves of patents, hoping to land a gold nugget that they can use as shields in the event they are sued in the future. Small firms are gobbled up not for their products but for their patent portfolios. Inventors, the tech/pharma equivalent of custom makers, well, they don't even figure.

If this corporate climate took hold in the knife world, in a few years we'd cease to recognize what we see. We are living through a Golden Age of Gear, with products are at the absolute zenith of the industry coming out yearly, if not monthly. The best is redefined in the blink of an eye. And all of this innovation comes relatively cheap compared to other industries like the bloated watch industry. Compare that with Big Pharma, where the "next big thing" is the extended release version of the pill you are already taking. If the lawsuit mentality takes over, small companies will get crushed and big companies will get boring quickly.

This suit is bad for the knife business.

Why its Bad for Cold Steel

Cold Steel is in a weird place in the knife business. Its not quite as ubiquitous as Kershaw, Gerber, Leatherman, or SOG. They are not in every single Big Box. But it is also not the enthusiast's choice. Cold Steel blades never reach the podium at Blade (though their corporate behavior might have something to do with that--Blade awards are voted on by others in the industry). More telling, they never do well on the secondary market and are rarely in production but out of stock. They are not Zero Tolerance or Spyderco, in other words.

And until SHOT 2015 their offerings were decidedly behind the times. A few years ago, they upgraded to the wonderful Tri-Ad lock, but the blade steels on virtual every knife were state of the art in the 1990s. But in January of 2015, Cold Steel doubled down on their corporate rebranding effort and announced that virtually every knife in their line up would receive a steel upgrade. CTS-XHP would be the steel of choice on their standard bearer Recon Series, by far the best steel on that kind of knife (compare it to VG-10 and 154CM on the Spyderco Delica and Benchmade Mini Griptillian respectively). This was just part of the repositioning. They also announced nearly a dozen new designs including the amazing 4MAX. In short, Cold Steel was reinventing itself.

The 4MAX is not Cold Steel's first foray into the uber premium market. They tried a few years ago with some high polish, high priced knives, but they utterly failed. The aluminum bolsters and AUS8 steel didn't justify the price tags of those knives. But the 4MAX is different. It has the premium blade steel, 20CV, and the custom design provenance to do well. The 4MAX is emblematic of the whole of Cold Steel--there is a lot riding on this repositioning. If the rebranding succeeds Cold Steel could enter that most profitable (on a per unit basis) part of the market--high end production knives. Cold Steel could finally become a true enthusiast brand, with the likes of Chris Reeve, Spyderco, and Zero Tolerance.

But with divided attention and resources caused by this silly lawsuit, all of that hangs precariously in the balance. Lynn Thompson should be making statements about how amazing the 4MAX is and testing some XHP blades, not rehashing a press release that is, itself, a rehash of a document Cold Steel refused to release to the public, despite it being a public document.

Despite its corporate image and criticism from enthusiasts, I like Cold Steel products. Look at my reviews. I really enjoyed the Recon 1. I was positively enthralled by their fixed blade offerings. I am not a fan of any brand, but I think Cold Steel offers quite a few very good knives. If they were fold up shop, I'd be sad because they make some unique stuff and because consumers would have one less option.

This suit is very bad for Cold Steel.

Conclusion

Cold Steel's behavior, by filing the suit and then refusing to release legal documents, shows that its not being forthright in dealing with the public. This action is also in direct contradiction to Cold Steel's corporate ethos--the Warrior Way. Though I am admittedly not an expert in the history of Japanese or Viking legal systems, I don't think samurai and berserkers often resorted to legal pleadings to get their enemies to submit. And no real warrior boasts of their behavior in one instance and then hides what they did the next. But this suit is bad not because of its corporate ethos mixed messaging. Its bad because, in the end, it has the potential to damage everyone. Knife enthusiasts are hurt by this. The knife business is hurt by this. Cold Steel is hurt by this.

Lynn Thompson should do the right thing and withdraw this suit. It is silly, bad for customers, and bad for business.

43 comments:

  1. What I find surprising is that given Cold Steel's past shenanigans anyone is surprised.

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  2. I said this on Dan's site, but to be it seems like there has to be more to this story. It's a TERRIBLE marketing decision. It will net them zero money in the end. And it's completely counter to the culture of the knife community. So what really happened here? Did someone at crkt insult Lynn Thompson's mom? I just don't get it. Maybe cold steel is really hurting in the money department and they're getting desperate. But even that doesn't make sense because I wouldn't expect a company hurting for money to throw it at such a frivolous marketing ploy. I just don't know.

    I had been looking at cold steel knives lately DESPITE their obnoxious marketing and videos. But this might be one step too far for me. There are too many good options and too many people in the industry I actually like and respect. Cold steel is digging itself into a hole in terms of brand identity for those of us with real interest in the industry, and it has a long road ahead digging itself out.

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  3. Great article. I am not a lawyer or legal eagle so this article was even more interesting. Good job!

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  4. I never understood this mindset where for Cold Steel to "win" everyone else has to lose. I agree with your consensus- this is bad all around.

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  5. This pile-on is overwrought, one-sided and unbecoming for the "knife community."

    If I'm Lynn Thompson, I'm not sure whether or not I would have filed this suit. There are genuine disadvantages as you've identified, especially the risk of touching off a spiral of litigation. Good point. But as soon as I heard of the suit, I nodded internally and felt I understood why it was filed.

    On the podcast you say you can't think of anyone in the community who was sympathetic to the suit. Here too you say response has been "uniform." That's wrong. I refer you to Mathew Culbertson and his brother Hissatsu5, both YT knife guys of long standing with a few thousand subs each. You can't watch those guys' videos without realizing that they do a lot of rough stuff with folding knives, that other reviewers might not do.

    I wonder if that's a missing element. Look, you are sufficiently dug in with a specific mindset about folding knives that you actually wrote in the post below that CS's lock strength test videos are "pointless" to you. Pointless. Not overblown, not suspect due to source, but pointless. That's a strongly polarized viewpoint that you seem to put a fair amount of of stress on. Mightn't that be limiting your ability to understand other perspectives here? Those with somewhat different priorities may take a different view of what's wrong enough to justify a lawsuit over.

    I'm not making any claim about ultimate legal merits of anything. But I have to talk about the tests etc. a bit to make my point about what I think CS is thinking. People are yelling "Boycott" because (a) they have legit concerns about spillover effects from the suit, (b) this is typical internet mob bullshit, or (c) they have convinced themselves that CS isn't acting in reasonable good faith. I say (c) in particular is way off base.

    Some of us consumers care about whether our folders can slice apples on Instagram, yet also care how they might handle a moderate-force spine whack or overstrike. CS pretty obviously feels this way. IF you felt that way and IF you believed the CRKT ad copy was making a pretty concrete and potentially falsifiable claim (re: what are clearly marketed as defense knives btw), and IF you believed (rightly or wrongly) that that claim was full of shit, THEN you would be genuinely indignant.

    (Serious Q: is there anything that a knife company could say in its ads that you would view as justifying a competitor in filing suit, if that competitor sincerely believes the ads are false?)

    CS appears to be retiring the "World's Strongest, Sharpest" slogan. Their website now says "Anytime, Anywhere." You don't have to like Lynn (incidentally, some people think Thomas W is a jerk too, based on his hostile, censoring behavior on BF -- I was surprised you'd allow him on your podcast) but I'd say that change is an attempt by CS to walk the walk in light of their own lawsuit.

    Criticizing CS for only stating after filing suit that they'd donate the proceeds to Knife Rights verges on cheap shot. Again, I'm trying to stay clear of the merits, but the complaint barely even attempts to plead economic damages. I would be shocked if CS viewed this as a moneymaking venture via a damage award. Ego? Publicity? Yeah, probably in part. But I suspect Lynn also just thinks CRKT is seriously out of line; he'd be happy with injunctive relief.

    The business with the complaint was stupid on CS's part but is ultimately small potatoes. The doc is right there on PACER. This doesn't deserve to be hit on a zillion times in this post. Let it go.

    In closing, the response to the suit has more than a whiff of "social media outrage of the month." Honorable exception to Dan on the podcast, who clearly tried to articulate both sides.

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    1. There is a bit of irony in claiming that my attitude about folders is dismissive when the whole point of Cold Steel's litigation is to say that no folder is even comparably as strong as a fixed blade. Their litigation proves my point.

      The reality is hard to avoid--if you need a no fail lock you need a fixed blade. There is part of the knife community that simply won't consider a fixed blade and part of the community that thinks folders are pre-broken. I have tried to stake out what I thought was middle ground which is to say that folders are a great convenience but never a replacement for a fixed blade.

      My claim that Cold Steel's lock tests are pointless is simply this--when you are talking about folding knives and their locks its all a matter of degree. They will all fail eventually and the difference between the failure strength of locks compared to a fixed blade is ginormous. Use whatever analogy you want, but the truth is picking a folder for its lock strength is like picking among the fastest mopeds or selecting the smartest Kardashian sister--you are picking a thing for its worst and least important attribute. Folks did fine with folders that had NO locks for hundreds of years. It can't be that all of a sudden we now NEED them. If you have even a modicum of knife sense, you can work around having no lock, so I can't see how lock strength matters.

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    2. I think there are things that would qualify as grounds for a false advertising suit. For example, case law says that direct comparison claims are probably the easiest things to demonstrate false advertising. That is, if a company takes their product and compares it by name to another company's product in a false or misleading way, that's grounds. Very few knife companies, in fact only one, does direct comparison advertising.

      Another thing that I think would be fair game under the Lanham Act is a knife company claiming that their knives never need resharpening. There was an old infomerical knife that said that, but it has long since faded away. The closest thing I can think of a claim like "this knife could go a lifetime without resharpening", but even there I think there is enough fudging in the statement to avoid problems.

      Then there are the obvious things--our blade steel has more carbon than any other knife on the market. That would be simple to prove or disprove. In short, there is very little that I would think would be blatant enough to merit a suit. What is blatant enough no one is dumb enough to do.

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    3. As for the pleadings issue, its really disengenious to do what Cold Steel did. First, they were the ones that bragged about the lawsuit. They were the ones that sent out the press release to the knife "press." So they were asking us to pay attention, asking us to give them coverage. And then they said they wanted follow up. But when someone asked for the actual legal document and not the party line they went silent. Its one thing to have a controversy and say "No comment." Its another to brag and then when asked a hard question to go radio silent. And its a bridge too far for me to do all of that and not release to the public a document that is a public document.

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    4. As for Thomas--I have invited Cold Steel, CRKT, and Cold Steel's lawyer to come on the podcast or submit comments. I'd be thrilled if Lynn Thompson came on to answer some questions...100% thrilled. I am a firm believer in John Stuart Mill's notion that ideas worth having are ones worth testing in argument and under strenuous questioning. I'd have any knife company head on if they were willing to answer questions. And really Thomas "censoring" folks on BF is an order of magnitude different than suing another company.

      As for the relief being sought, they did mention money damages, trebled damages, and lawyer's fees many times. I am not sure how they will prove damages, which is, perhaps, why they aren't alleged in the pleading, but that is an issue for the merits analysis that is coming soon.

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  6. Just to say it again: I am trying not to address the legal merits, but I have to talk about how some disputable questions might be viewed by CS because as a consumer, I think motive matters in how we should view this. I also don't think potential merits (or at least the importance of the issues involved) can be completely divorced from how consumers should react.

    I also apologize for the aside about a particular knife company's employee. I meant it to illustrate a genuine point but it is arguably inappropriate coming from a pseudonymous commenter and it has the potential to distract.

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    1. "People are yelling "Boycott" because (a) they have legit concerns about spillover effects from the suit, (b) this is typical internet mob bullshit, or (c) they have convinced themselves that CS isn't acting in reasonable good faith. I say (c) in particular is way off base."

      Actually I think you are missing some of the reasoning here. CS is creating a particular brand identity for itself, and has been for a long time. From the slicing up pig carcasses videos to the lock test videos to the lawsuit, CS has been creating this sort of aggressive/confrontational/"strongest sharpest" identity for themselves.

      For me, and I think for others, the lawsuit, since it is quite obviously a publicity move (you're naive if you think Thompson is doing this because he really "believes" in it), has crossed a line in terms of obnoxiousness. So what they are doing is repelling a lot of a enthusiasts, a market they should be trying to capture.

      And we can discuss whether it is a publicity stunt some more if you want. It is clear that this was 100% marketing-driven. That's exactly why there was a press release followed by silence followed by a "statement" from Lynn Thompson. If this was some kind of moral high ground issue for Thompson, he would have filed the lawsuit and been done with it. Instead, he filed the suit, then sent out a press release bragging to his fans.

      And I think "boycott" is a strong word. I would still buy a CS knife if my "should I buy it or not" equation told me to. But part of that equation is what I think of the company. And since they are getting on my nerves, the knife has to be REALLY good before I consider spending my money on it.

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  7. It seems like the assumption here is that regardless of the merits, this suit is, to use your shorthand, "bad for everyone." If your post is premised on the assumption that this suit is clearly meritless, then the legal analysis would have come first.

    Given that setup, it seems like you're saying that some suits shouldn't be brought even if they have merit. How do you differentiate between (1) the suits that have merit and should be brought, and (2) the suits that have merit yet shouldn't be brought?

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    1. I am still researching the legal side. Generally I would side against a lawsuit in business. Let the market sort things out. It's pretty good at doing that.

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    2. Right. If it is solely a question like "our competitor says their knife is smooth to deploy but actually their pivot is gritty and annoying," one should generally let the market sort it out. But what if you think there's a safety issue?

      I don't think this should be simplistically reduced to the "pure EDC users" (plus the "pocket frosting collectors") vs. the "crossover EDC/defensive users" but I do think that divergence is subtly important here. If you come at it with the premise that high lock impact strength is kind of a frill -- that above a very modest threshold it's not relevant to what you do with your knives -- then it's more natural to view this suit through the lens of "Thompson is just being a predatory douche." But if your reaction is "holy cow, they're talking about lock strength! In a defensive knife! They better have their shit straight" it's easier to take the view that the suit is understandable.

      A parallel point: A lot of the "enthusiast market" seems to be indifferent about, or even to embrace, these trendy liner- and framelock knives with incredibly low lockbar tension and/or "insanely early lockup," where the leaf doesn't even fully engage the tang. Wow, so precise! Long lock life! Whereas my subjective reaction is that those knives are alarmingly, brow-raisingly, shark-jump BAD, and it makes me want to avoid any maker who thinks it's desirable to deliver a folding knife to the end user in that condition.

      Furthermore, while I am sure Thompson would indeed love to scoop up some of the money being thrown around in the enthusiast/frosting market, CS is never going to be fully of that world. From your standpoint CS may not be a leading knife company, but I assure you that in more "preparedness" type circles they are a leader. I've got a book from at least a decade ago in which John Farnam singles out CS by name as ideal carry for those who want utility and defense capability. (Some readers won't know who Farnam is; that neatly illustrates my point about different worlds.) My last instructor specifically pushed people toward Cold Steel and secondarily to Spyderco.

      Sincere thanks for hosting this conversation.

      PS: "Virtually the entire knife community agrees with R.D.'s position on the lawsuit!" /s :)

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    4. I am not able to speak on the viability of a folding knife as a defensive tool, but I can't imagine it would be better than a fixed blade.

      I too think the "early lock up" craze is stupid. I have been working on an article or podcast about the mechanical engineer's perspective on knife design and design trends and the ones I have spoken to have confirmed that generally early lock up is not a good thing.

      As for the notion that CS and LT did this to protect consumers, well, that is confusing. First, false advertising is not about consumer safety. There are dozens of legal avenues to preserve consumer safety and false advertising is not one of them. Second, in order to have standing you have to show some damage, monetary or reputational, not that you "sticking up for consumers". They are spinning it that way because, well, saying your suing someone is always a strong pill to swallow, but a false advertising claim has ZERO to do with consumer safety.

      Finally, I need you to point me to copy from CRKT that says their "virtual fixed blades" are on defensive knives or are beneficial to defensive knives. I can't remember any such copy because, generally, knife companies don't advertise their knives as weapons. There are a few models that are exceptions, the Spyderco ARK or P'kal and the Benchmade SOCP, but no company, even Cold Steel, markets their entire line as weapons.

      Finally, I am not sure there is a safety issue here. As evidenced by Gerber's performance and their recalls, the CSPC is pretty aggressive about recalling products that have caused injuries. I have searched their databases recently for CKRT products and none showed up. So is this really about safety or is it about "perceived safety"? There was a thread on Watchuseek making fun of people that insist on 500M water resistant watches where the guy, an actual diver, took a $20 watch rated to 30M, down to that depth and it survived. I think a lot of the BS over lock safety falls in to the same category. Its just another bullet point on a feature list that marketers can use to get us to buy a knife. It is a matter of perception and not reality.

      Again, buying a folding knife for lock strength is like dating the smartest Kardashian sister...

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    5. Sorry for the double "finally" I typed this in two different locations.

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    6. OK, I tried to respond to your request for sources but my response seems to have been disappeared. That makes two long and time-consuming comments on this that have been deleted ( the other was several days ago).

      Cool; I understand your position and empathize. You don't have time to scrutinize comments on this or lay down ground rules; anyway, I genuinely don't grasp what the ground rules are. I don't have time to try to reconstruct what I wrote in what might or might not be an acceptable format.

      I'll sign off from the discussion here. I'm pretty content with what I've already said. It did turn out that the question of the roles for which CRKT might be said to market these knives is not so clear-cut as I suggested. So I'll retract that.

      If my response to your request was deleted accidentally, I still am fine bowing out.

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    7. Nothing was deleted. I never delete any comments ever. I have no idea where they went. I have been out of Internet range for two hours.

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  8. I certainly agree with R.D.'s analysis and fail to see the analogy that Tony makes with the Samsung/Apple or pharma patent wars where market participants try to organise a small monopoly for themselves. CS is not trying to get any CRKT knives out of the market place, just trying them to alter their marketing approach.

    CS believes, correctly or incorrectly, that the advertising copy of CRKT is misleading. CS states that they asked CRKT to stop this advertising voluntarily and got no response. Putting a claim before a judge, is what one does in a civilized society.

    Regardless of the merits of the case, one manufacturer calling the ADVERTISING of another manufacturer misleading, seems nothing more than an industry self-regulating itself. What do consumers really stand to loose? That manufacturers become more careful and accurate in their marketing ? I rather welcome that.

    CS really does not deserve the scorn they are getting (here) from the 'knife community'. They are sticking to what they believe in and a judge will decide whether they are right or wrong.

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    1. Actually consumers stand to lose quite a bit. If a company as small as crkt or cold steel starts putting significant money into lawsuits/defending against lawsuits, then either the prices of the products will go up or the quality will go down. The cost of this lawsuit for either company is a significant portion of their revenue.

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    2. "The cost of this lawsuit for either company is a significant portion of their revenue."

      Do you have any basis for this statement, i.e. a ballpark figure of CS/CRKT revenue and of the law suit cost?

      It would seem at least that CS is not too worried about this, as they are donating the litigation proceeds.

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    3. Brumxi,

      The point of the Big Pharma and Apple/Samsung examples were to show what happens when companies in a given market become addicted to suing each other instead of producing good products for consumers.

      The point about this being bad for consumers is that no one is really duped by the "virtual fixed blade" marketing speak any more than they are duped by the claim that Cold Steel's AUS8 knives were the "strongest sharpest knives" But folks are hurt in real ways if companies are spending time and money suing each other instead of doing R&D on new products. As for AUS8 and Cold Steel's now vanished "Strongest, Sharpest" claim, there are many ways to measure strength and sharpness of a blade, but there are few ways (if any) that AUS8 or even CTS-XHP comes out on top. But again, no consumers are duped by language like "virtual fixed blade," "strongest, sharpest knives", or "bestest knife ever". Its marketing hyperbole and pretty much every thinking adult understands that.

      Its the language equivalent of the bath tubs on the beach in a Viagra commercial. No one REALLY thinks that Viagra is going to magically transform your sex life into sex on the beach in bath tubs with unusually attractive older people. So when the choice is between a real lose of production or marginally more accurate marketing baloney, I'm in favor of the former. Better baloney is still baloney.

      As for everything going to court--I am a lawyer and I get that, but geez, there are all sorts of disputes that don't need to go to court. The problem here, even if you suppose the case has merit, is not whether you can go to court, but whether you should. There is a difference between those two things and wisdom is required to differentiate between the two. Its also why I posted this piece first. The merits of the suit, for me, are beside the point. This is an issue of prudence and business savvy in the first instance. The legal matter, for me, is of secondary importance. Its not like a judge is going to say "COLD STEEL Knives are, by a matter of law, the best in the world."

      Finally, lets all just step away from the silly and false notion that false advertising suits are about protecting consumers. That is not the purpose of the false advertising law. In fact, the standing requirements include monetary loss or damaged reputation. It is designed help businesses recoup losses from unfair practices. Businesses make decisions for business reasons. That's it, plan and simple. None of these folks are philanthropists. None of them. Its about selling products and making money. If they tell you otherwise, well...you know what to do with that.

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  9. With regard to the Kardashian sisters:
    * If I had to pick between them, yes I would certainly go for the most intelligent one. The RELATIVE differences on the left-hand side of the Gauss curve are bound be significant;
    * and no, even to the brightest Kardashian, I would not hand over a CRKT knife and tell her it is 'virtually a fixed blade' ;-)

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  10. RD I have the comment on back up. I'll post it tonight.

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  11. Here are RD's comments. I think the auto spam comment filter caught them because they had links in them. I have no control over that, but I do get all of the spam comments as emails. Fortunate in this case. As a policy I do not remove ANY comments of ANY kind. If they get through the filter they stay up.

    The reason you carry a folding knife (partly for) defense is because either it's not legal for you to carry a fixed blade or because it's too inconvenient to conceal a fixed blade on your person. A whole lot of people fall into one or both of these camps. It is what it is.

    Here's the exact knife tested in one of the CS lock test videos: the M16-14ZSF Desert Special Forces, which CRKT lists under "Folding Tactical Knives." And check this out -- the CRKT ad copy doesn't even say "VIRTUAL fixed blade," it literally says:

    "It features our exclusive patented AutoLAWKS™ safety, which automatically turns the folder into a fixed blade when the blade is opened and locked."

    Freakin' A, man.

    Reference: http://www.crkt.com/M16-14-Z-Desert-Special-Forces-Tanto-AutoLAWKS-Combo-Edge

    Note too the tanto blade -- does that say more of a work knife?

    Here's the CS test vid:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIu8JLybCkE

    And here's the other knife CS did a test on, the Otanashi no Ken (lit. "silent sword"), which CRKT also lists under "Folding Tactical Knives" and describes bluntly as a "Threat Extinguisher."

    http://www.crkt.com/Otanashi-noh-Ken-Folding-Tactical-Knife
    CS test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7iAd7HdEoo

    Now I will concede your point to an extent -- on *this* LAWKS knife's ad copy, where they have made a totally unambiguous reference to defensive use, CRKT avoids including any of the "fixed blade" rhetoric. Fair point. On the other hand, which way does that cut, since there are many other "folding tactical knives" in the same section that do say the LAWKS devices turn the knives into (virtual, or even unqualified) fixed blades? How should one describe this behavior?

    Just one more data point. Here is the category heading page for CRKT's "Folding Tactical Knives." Notice which knife they picture at the top to stand for the category. And the reference to how folding tactical knives are "easier to conceal and to carry everyday."

    http://www.crkt.com/foldingtacticalknives

    PS: I was just at a store and saw a bunch of the big CRKT M-series knives being sold under glass in stark black packaging that says "FOR THOSE WHO SERVE: FOR PROFESSIONAL USE ONLY."

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    1. To RD's point--I think the term "tactical" has zero meaning in the context of knife marketing (which, incidentally, is the context the courts use in evaluating false advertising claims). Its like calling something an "outdoor knife."

      Saying something is a tactical knife also has no real legal significance. Its not a definition. Its not like, for example, calling a car an AWD car. That has a definition and whether something is or isn't an AWD car can be verified.

      "For Professional Use Only" and black wording is not terribly specific. It is meant to convey something, but its not stating anything more specific than a knife that has camo colored handle scales. The professionals in question could be butchers for all we know. The ad people know that the majority of the knife buying public associates memes, colors, and phrases with special forces, SWAT, military...whatever "operator" you want to point to and they market to people based on those associations. It is a tactic and a ploy. This is the heart of advertising--associate a product with a lifestyle. Its why there aren't fat ugly people on perfume and cologne ads.

      And this gets to the heart of this whole thing--there is just an irreducible amount of marketing baloney is virtually every knife company's copy, from the silly Spyderco catalog pictures to the claims that knives are proven in combat zones. Its all bullshit really. This is part and parcel with my disdain for and opposition to brand loyalty.

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  12. Alright, I've been thinking about this the last few days, largely because I think R.D. makes a lot of rational, reasonable arguments on this page. I don't necessarily agree with them, but I appreciate the approach and the delivery.

    I've been trying to look at it more from Cold Steel's standpoint, but here's what I keep coming back to - Cold Steel's "test" videos are actually more damaging to competitors than anything like the phrase "virtual fixed blade" is to CS AND they can be more easily classified as false advertising. I will admit to enjoying these videos, but from an engineering perspective they are technically very misleading. For example, the "weight hang" test, as they call it, does not take into account the size of the lever arm. The string is tied to a mostly arbitrary section of the blade handle - this is a poor calculation/estimation of the torque being exerted on the pivot/lock. I don't want to see it happen, but this is actually the exact type of thing that another knife company (ie Spyderco) COULD attempt to claim monetary damages for. They could easily make the case that cold steel is using the Tatanka in a video that claims to be technically sound, but is not at all, and airing it to the public.

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    1. In working on the mechanical engineer article, the one thing an engineer friend of mine pointed out was the notion of a static v. non-static load. The Cold Steel test does not simulate this very well. Additionally, the friend pointed out the need for a strong pivot bar as much as a strong lock. If the lock is strong, but the pivot isn't the whole thing will fail in real world use even if it passes "tests".

      Personally, I think this is all marketing hype, as the vast majority of folders have locks that are strong enough for the vast majority of tasks they are asked to perform. This, coupled with a bit of knife sense, goes a very long way.

      I'd much rather have ads focus on solid designs, good pocket clips, nice deployment methods, and good steels than lock design. Its just something that I don't think matters all that much to the majority of people. Not a whole lot of us are stabbing into a bear's rib and pry it apart.

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  13. This lawsuit was an attempt at getting publicity and I think it's backfired in their faces. This smacks of similar situations where independent films will purposely send a NC17 cut to the MPAA and the do a bunch of grandstanding about suing the MPAA just to raise awareness for the film.

    This combined with their silly YouTube videos just screams 'look at us, look at us, we make knives too' to me. There is an old adage in advertising about #1 never recognizes #2 and it's true here. The classic example is Coke v Pepsi. Coke is #1 and will never mention Pepsi in any of their marketing because why give #2 free publicity. Pepsi on the other hand has done several marketing campaigns centered around their competition with Coke.

    The #1s in the knife industry (ZT, Benchmade, Spyderco etc) don't recognize the also rans in their marketing. Cold Steel is an also ran who's trying to tear down the big guys in order to raise awareness of their brand.

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    1. "The #1s in the knife industry (ZT, Benchmade, Spyderco etc) don't recognize the also rans in their marketing."

      Oof, that's a meatball pitch, bro. I don't want to turn this into a brand flagwaving thing, but Spyderco "doesn't recognize" CS so much that they just decided to make a Cold Steel folder. Tatanka. And they market it like this:

      "Its defining feature is its high-strength PowerLock™–a deceptively simple yet incredibly strong lock that at first glance looks like an ordinary back lock"

      You don't say. And that's after Sal (whom I greatly admire btw) had previously made statements dismissing the concept of the CS-style megafolder. Something changed Spyderco's tune.

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    2. That's not the point. Did Spyderco come out and say the knife was a Cold Steel competitor? Did they mention CS in anyway?

      If Pepsi comes out with something popular that a Coke replicates, Coke doesn't say it's their version of the Pepsi product.

      That's what I meant by recognize.

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    3. Maybe the Tatanka is why CS is moving up market. It showed there are mall ninjas who's chief concern is being able to spine whack their knives, even at the $200 price point...

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  14. Also, in regards to the silly YouTube videos. I would love to see a knife company come out with a knife that it literally a sharpened pry bar and then do a series of videos where they pry stuff with it and then just snap CS blades in half dong the same thing as a 'test'.

    I'd be interested to hear the reaction from all the CS defenders/mall ninjas to this type of video...

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