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  1. #1
    New Member Ramble On's Avatar
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    On Hammocks and Patents.

    If this is too far off topic, feel free to delete.

    I don't know how many of you play paintball, if any, but there was an incident a few years ago that reminds me of what I see in the Hammock community today.

    In Paintball, since the 80's there were many ideas that the inventors kind of gave over to the public domain. They did this in the hopes of growing the sport, and developing a sense of community. All was well, in the paintball world, untill it actually DID start to explode into a very proffitable market. That is when the greed set in. One single company called Smart Parts, who was run by a family, that also ran another business, too a big chunk of cash, hired a lawer, and patented all of the ideas that had been in the public domain forever. THe long and short of the story is that the went in, patented every idea they could think off, and then turned around and sued everyone else who was using the stuff they patented, and won.

    The thing about patents, is that if the greenhorn patent researcher doesn't know the product, or find any previous art in the patent archives, they generally accept the patent. The thought is, that is is up to the patent holder to enforce his rights in the market.

    Now we see the same thing starting to happen in the Hammock world...
    I personally have been hammock camping since about 1985. It isn't a new idea. But with the creation of new fabrics, or the adaptation of different knots or shapes to hammocks and tarps, these ideas may or may not be patentable. THey fist guy to the patent clerk, could end up holding all the marbles, should push come to shove.

    A particular Popular Tarp, is a prime example of an exploitable idea, and I would hate to see it's creator get raked over the coals, just for having faith in the current air of good will.

    As a follow up, Smart Parts is now a Market leader in Paintball, riding out numerous bouts of boycots and bad publicity. THey have virtually, single handedly quashed innovation in the industry, and forced a large percent of their once thriving competition out of business.

    -Ramble On

  2. #2
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    Yup, I was thinking the same thing. Patenting is a royal pain if you a small operator and can't afford a patent attorney. I really hope Brian doesn't have his hard work ripped out from under him.

    All it is going to take is one greedy business though.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Fiddleback's Avatar
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    If the patent truly takes from the public domain, then a reexam request can be submitted. The request asks the Patent and Trademark Office to revoke an issued patent because it is not a new idea and was already public. If that's true, the patent will be revoked.

    It's true that a market dominated by one or a small number of companies will suffer from a lack of innovation compared to a free market of many companies. But it's patents that encourage the innovation of those free markets by providing an incentive for the innovators (profit). Altruistic motivations of inventors are not sufficient to grow an industry...there are few manufacturers who produce without a chance at profit. And without the chance of profit, there will be no industry growth and little innovation.

    Competition is good and beneficial but one must realize that, by definition, each competing company is trying to build its market share by taking market share from the other guy. They do so thru innovation...either in their product or in their manufacturing process or in their marketing.

    FB

  4. #4
    GrizzlyAdams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slowhike View Post
    about tom hennessy... i had some what of an opinion his character before but this weekend, it was made much more clear.
    tom talked to the jacks about the use of a ridge line on thier new hammock (thought it's very different), & gave the new guy (warbonnet hammocks) a really hard time about his variation on the asym hammock.
    i was told that tom even made comments about individuals not having the right to use a ridge line on their homemade hammocks.
    for those that use & love the HH, i'm not knocking the product but the thing is that tom is trying to control the market. tom doesn't want anyone else to sell snake skins, any hammock that resembles his asym shape, or any kind of ridge line.
    tom hennessy is stifling the creativeness of the hammocking community.
    what he's doing goes way beyond keeping anyone from copying his hammock & selling it. it has to do w/ greed & control.
    sorry hh lovers, but i'm going to have to take a stand against the owner of HH & his attitude. ...tim
    Hi tim,
    I think there's a difference between a patent holder defending his legal rights, and the way that's done. The "character" issue, as you say.

    I looked up the Hennessy patent on-line.

    http://www.freepatentsonline.com/EP1391164.html

    One of the things to keep in mind is that a patent can (and his does) lay claim to different ways of implementing a key invention. If the Jacks or anybody else sells a product that is different from what TH sells, but uses one of the implementations described in the patent, then TH has the basis for an infringement claim.

    A good patent lawyer will build into the patent a description of as many ways to implement and use the invention as the lawyer and owner can think of. The TH patent reflects this (e.g., an adjustable version of the ridgeline).

    Having said that the Jacks are clever guys, and taking their statement of philosophy

    http://www.jacksrbetter.com/About%20...r%20Philosophy

    at face value tells me that they think they have a way of selling a product that does not infringe on TH's claims. I'm definitely interested in seeing details!

    Of course, TH has no claim against someone who does a DIY ridgeline, or (I think) posts instructions or pictures on how to implement one. Patents are a matter of protecting commercial expression of ideas.

    Character matters to me as well in the way I spend my $$. I appreciate your report from the front.

    Grizz

  5. #5
    Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Gibson View Post
    Yup, I was thinking the same thing. Patenting is a royal pain if you a small operator and can't afford a patent attorney. I really hope Brian doesn't have his hard work ripped out from under him.

    All it is going to take is one greedy business though.
    Paul,

    From what I have read and figured out, Fiddleback hits the nail on the head. From a few hours of research and studying of my products and methods, there is nothing that is not publicly used and accepted knowledge, that is, is used my multiple manufacturers for some times now. Catenary cuts (Granite Gear has a C.C. Tarp), Flat Felled seams (every tarp), and other similar things are not patentable at this time because they are in such broad use in the market. Other things like shape aren't really patentable, because that isn't a new idea or technique needed for a patent.

    Tom Hennessy on the other hand, had some great ideas really early in the market, and his patents are both solid and well deserved. I just can't wait till some of the protection that he has earned from them expires and we see some real creativity in the commercial hammock marketplace.

    Brian
    OES

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by slowhike View Post
    about tom hennessy... i had some what of an opinion his character before but this weekend, it was made much more clear.
    tom talked to the jacks about the use of a ridge line on thier new hammock (thought it's very different), & gave the new guy (warbonnet hammocks) a really hard time about his variation on the asym hammock.
    i was told that tom even made comments about individuals not having the right to use a ridge line on their homemade hammocks.
    for those that use & love the HH, i'm not knocking the product but the thing is that tom is trying to control the market.
    tom doesn't want anyone else to sell snake skins, any hammock that resembles his asym shape, or any kind of ridge line.
    tom hennessy is stifling the creativeness of the hammocking community.
    what he's doing goes way beyond keeping anyone from copying his hammock & selling it. it has to do w/ greed & control.
    sorry hh lovers, but i'm going to have to take a stand against the owner of HH & his attitude. ...tim
    Okay, this is disturbing news. There is nothing wrong with protecting ones ideas, but I'd rather have the creativity as slowhike states. The creativity is what keeps the markets growing and a developing. So much of what we see in the market place is carbon copyville. But the hammock community has a lot of diversity.

    Besides marketing is what sells products, not patents. HH can have every patent as many patents as he wants, but I think he'd do better by out marketing everyone else than trying to hole up under a mountain of patents. People are going to copy your ideas or have similar ideas. Similar problems do tend to generate similar solutions. But everyone has a different perspective, and that perspective is what gives diversity in the marketplace.
    Last edited by funbun; 05-21-2007 at 09:15.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Just Jeff's Avatar
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    Moving patent comments from Trail Days thread over here - some of the first few posts might end up out of order, but I wanted to keep it all in one thread so it's all consolidated.

    Here's Tim's part from his TD post...

    Quote Originally Posted by slowhike
    about tom hennessy... i had some what of an opinion his character before but this weekend, it was made much more clear.
    tom talked to the jacks about the use of a ridge line on thier new hammock (thought it's very different), & gave the new guy (warbonnet hammocks) a really hard time about his variation on the asym hammock.
    i was told that tom even made comments about individuals not having the right to use a ridge line on their homemade hammocks.
    for those that use & love the HH, i'm not knocking the product but the thing is that tom is trying to control the market.
    tom doesn't want anyone else to sell snake skins, any hammock that resembles his asym shape, or any kind of ridge line.
    tom hennessy is stifling the creativeness of the hammocking community.
    what he's doing goes way beyond keeping anyone from copying his hammock & selling it. it has to do w/ greed & control.
    sorry hh lovers, but i'm going to have to take a stand against the owner of HH & his attitude.
    “Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall when the wise are banished from the public councils because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.” ~Judge Joseph Story

    - My site: http://www.tothewoods.net/
    - Designer, Jeff's Gear Hammock / Pack Cover by JRB

    IMPOSSIBLE JUST TAKES LONGER

  8. #8
    Senior Member headchange4u's Avatar
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    I think Tom sees that he is losing his strangle hold on the hammock market and is getting a little bit scared.
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it." -Terry Pratchett



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  9. #9
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    Good point - I guess all the systems are already in use. But the detail of how they go together is a unique piece of intellectual property.

    Comparisons could be drawn to the automotive industry: a Lamborghini Murcielago and a Honda Civic both have systems like disc brakes, radiators, and camshafts but no one would ever confuse the two.

    Never hurts to keep an eye on your six is all I'm saying.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Just Jeff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by headchange4u View Post
    I think Tom sees that he is losing his strangle hold on the hammock market and is getting a little bit scared.
    True, but give the man his due - he had some great ideas and saw the potential to offer it up and make some money from it. Without his profit, we wouldn't have his product...and no one can deny that huge impact he's had on the hammocking community. He put a lot of work into it and deserves what's coming to him. I'm all about capitalism!

    Now it seems like he thinks his patents cover the whole hammocking world! Bit of an overstatement, but he is being pretty aggressive about explaining what his patent covers. Maybe it really covers that much - we'll have to see if that's the case when he takes someone to court over it. Or maybe he's just trying to intimidate the other guys from encroaching on his market share - a common tactic in business...just not in this niche market where we like to think we're all friends. But business is still business, and Tom deserves the payoff for what he's put into the market.

    But yeah - I think with each new company and product his market share is dwindling a bit at a time, and he's trying to preserve it. And rightly so...I just think he's overstating his patents. Guess we'll find out if he decides to spend the money on defending it in court.
    “Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall when the wise are banished from the public councils because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.” ~Judge Joseph Story

    - My site: http://www.tothewoods.net/
    - Designer, Jeff's Gear Hammock / Pack Cover by JRB

    IMPOSSIBLE JUST TAKES LONGER

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