I begin with a brief history of what has occurred over the past few years. In 1995, Smart Parts releases the first electronic paintball marker, the pneuVentures Shocker. This gun was designed jointly by both SP and pVI, and Smart Parts also manufactured a few parts for it. In 1996, Smart Parts patents the dump-chamber and it's interaction with the specific type of hammer-less firing assembly that the Shocker employs. Later, in 2003, Smart Parts performs a continuation-in-part operation to their original patent, which expands it to include any electronic marker. The definition of this marker is one that uses an electronic circuit to fire, so any marker is included. In the meantime, companies such as WDP, Brass Eagle, ICD, NPS, AKALMP, and others bring a large spectrum of electronic markers to the market. WDP came in a close second, however Smart Parts beat them and claimed the patent on it.
Some say that Smart Parts' master plan for market domination was to lie in wait until circca 2003, at which point their continuation-in-part of the electronic marker would take effect. They would have simply allowed the rest of the market to build up their inventory of markers only to be all covered under the patent continuation in one fell swoop, and thus everyone would all owe Smart Parts money. There is absolutely no evidence toward this theory; it is complete speculation. Actually, I will go the necessary step further and say it is more likely those who are pissed at them are making up outlandish ties to the company being a villainous entity bent on destroying the market. I believe it is more likely that they simply realized that they could expand their patent, then choose to do so. Remember, there is no reason why this would be illegal, as they do own the rights to the first electronic marker. They did, in fact, bring electronics to the market. Whichever story you choose to believe is up to you.
So this is how it goes: when you are the first to invent something, or in this case simply release it to the public, you can use the patent system to prevent others from making profit on your design. It doesn't necessarially matter if you're dealing with an entirely new product or simply a concept, it's all fair game. Whether or not patenting the electronic marker is too wide and thus should be illegal is nothing but somebody's opinion. Some say it is too wide; personally I don't think it is. I think anything can be patented. Yes, I will probably end up paying more for the product...sucks for me. I could care less.
Don't quote to me that tired speech of Doc Nickel's about people such as Bob Gurnsey who didn't patent paintball becuase they wanted to sport to grow, Give me a break. It is entirely possible that the only thing that prevented him from applying for any patents is simply the fact that it costs thousands of dollars to do. What, did you call him up on the telephone and ask him yourself? That's right, you don't know, nether do I. But even then, how was he to know what the sport would turn into 15 years down the road. Sorry, but the pin valve is patented. Sorry, but the stacked open bolt blow back is patented. Stop villianizing people based from your worst case scenarios.
Fortunately for anyone who is knows, having a patent on something is completely different from having a monopoly over the industry. Moreover, even if every single solitary company paid Smart Parts royalities for their patents, it still wouldn't be a monopoly. Don't go around saying there's a monopoly when you don't even understand what that means.
Do some searching and take a look at how many paintball-related patents there are. The answer is hundreds. Hundreds upon hundreds. From definate things like a specific type of regulator, all the way up to the use of a paintball bunker. I will take the barrel plug for example...yes, the barrel plug is patented. Although Bud Orr supposidely invented the first barrel plug, it was not he who claims the rights to it. Surprised that such a simple item is patented? Don't be. To think that anything goes unnoticed in this world is an extremely neive point of view to take. Businessmen aren't in it to invent something then leave it lying around for the next oppertunitistic fellow to come along and claim the rights to it. Sorry, not in this world.
Although it is unrelated, I hold in my hand a simple phillips-head screwdriver. On one side it reads the model name, and on the other we find a six-digit US patent number, 201171. The fact that it has six digits places it well before the 1940s. I am unable to find any information on any patent this old, so who konws what it covers. It could even be something as defined as the square shape of the handle. If that was the case, everyone else who uses a similar square-shaped handle gives this company royalities. This is the nature of the economy; if you don't like it then too bad. It is not something that anyone can control, even if anyone wanted to. When you patent something, you are required by law to sue possible infringements on it. If you fail to do so, you will loose the patent. It is for this reason and NO OTHER that what Smart Parts does is well within their bounds of not only legality, but ethics as well. Patenting some broad inventoin isn't unethical. It may be to you, but how many multimillion dollar businesses do you own? Ever think there is a reason why you don't own one?
But even if it was, so what? Companies that fail to patent their inventions will loose money as a direct result, and possibly pass money on over to the next company, one who ends up receiving royalities from you because of one of your inventions. To think of the utter overwhelming competation in the industry if nobody patented what they did, sickens me. It would be a world filled with hundreds upon hundreds of identical inventions at the bare minimum price. There would be no single superior product because somebody could outright copy it, if nobody was there to ***** about how "broad" the patent for it was.
Want another example? AKALMP has a patent for their Mitey max low pressure chamber...to make a long story short, Shocktech stopped production of their own LPCs because they fell under AKA's patent. Shame. Another good example would be AKALMP's patent for their Tornade valve, which effectively places all hammer-based valves under it. How many other guns use a hammer? Every single open bolt blow back, and the vast majority of other paintball markers as well. Whether or not this is the actual embodiment is open to interpertation.
Unfortunately this is the way it is, there is no alternative. You can't pick and choose what is too broad and what isn't. In doing so you are not only calling the patent commission wrong, but there would be nothing to stop the next guy from saying you were wrong and attempting to reinstate the claims. This follows up to the fact that, if Smart Parts hadn't patented what they did, then WDP would have. If they hadn't, then Brass Eagle would have. This company would then be in the exact same position as Smart Parts, that is being required to sue other companies lest they loose their rights to the patent. Then people would get angered at them for trying to prevent the industry from growing or some other bull****, and nobody would give Smart Parts a second look.
Smart Parts Prevents Industry Growth:
This is one of the common phrases that the kids spout in effort to villianize Smart Parts. If you are one who believes in this phrase, I emplore you to take a step back and actually consider what it means instead of parroting the person in front of you. The only thing that stops growing as a result of Smart Parts are those which are directly affected by them. But just because they receive royalities from a product does not mean anything will stop growing. Instead, the consumer of said product will see an increase in cost. If you wish to tote about in some dream world and think prices of paintball equipment will stay the same indefinately, you're wrong. But high prices do not equal no growth.
Which also brings me to the point of the many competing manufacturers who have signed with Smart Parts. These include NPS (includes the Bob Long series of markers), Dye, and Eclipse. It is very likely that there are others as well, and that they simply choose to keep their legal interactions out of the public eye. So tell me, how does this stop anything from NPS from growing? How does this prevent RP Sherer from growing? More to the point, how does this stop Smart Parts from growing? Give me a break. At least if you don't like the company you can come out and say it, that you don't like to pay more (whether or not you actually do end up paying more). But don't make up pointless phrases like they "stop the sport from growing," when you don't even understand what it means yourself.
Smart Parts are Nazis:
I have absolutely no respect for anyone who says this. It is not funny nor is it clever. If you spout this phrase then you simply don't understand what a Nazi is, or what they did to over 200 million people half a century ago. Nothing else to say about this.
Personally, I don't necessarially like that everything in this world has a patent behind it, but I understnad the consequences of the alternatives. I use Smart Parts guns, barrels, and accessories because I don't have problems with them. I also know how to service them. Nothing more. The day Smart Parts is responsible for preventing me from playing paintball is the day I stop supporting them.
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thank you to Ydna for the great article.