This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

July 14th, 2003

Tacky, Slippery, Slimy?

Have you ever tried to totally relax and found some nagging thought demanding your attention? The kind of under-current which doesn't go away - but on the other hand, there isn't much you can do about it. It's frustrating, and doesn't help my blood pressure or anger level.

I'm upset is because there are some things going on in our sport which detract from something I dearly love. I resent the hell out of that.

My husband JC, and I have often commented that someone can take a shot (figuratively) at one of us and that's fine, but if that shot is just at me, JC gets very upset and angry. And the same holds true the other direction too.

So what is one to do when greed and ego drive some to do unethical, slimy and very tacky business practices?

I'll explain, but I hope you are willing to contribute to my Legal Defense Fund if one of the guilty parties files suit against me.

The wife of a friend paid for and took a casting class. She did learn how to hold a fly rod. The instructor at the end of the class told her she really needed to take the "Advanced" class. Cool, she hadn't learned how to cast and an advanced class was going to fix that? Nothing was mentioned about stopping the rod, nor anything related to line control. The instructor did however, emphasis how good HE was since HE was a Master Certified Casting Instructor.

STOP! No, I'm not going there again, except to say that program is still in need of severe repair. When there are problems the majority of them have to do with ego and greed.

There's more.

If you are a rod builder you may be aware of a snit between the guide maker "The Big Guide Company" and the rest of the world who produces guides. I'm told "The Big Guide Company" had a patent, which causes some head-scratching since guides of every configuration were already 'known' and you can't patent previously know technology (which the patent office calls 'known art'.) So the "The Big Guide Company's" patent expired.

All patents have a length of time to be valid. When it expires, such as the drug patents, cheaper drugs, of exactly the same thing, are available from other manufacturers. These are sometimes called generic drugs. The inventor/creator of the drug has had an opportunity to make their profit from the new drug, and in time, the drug becomes cheaper and more readily available. In my mind this is a win-win situation.

Back to "The Big Guide Company". The patent expired, which allows other companies to produce similar guides, probably at a lower price as well. That is how it usually works. Except not this time.

Greed and ego? Well, "The Big Guide Company" trademarked the guide. How? They made a drawing of the guide and called it their logo. So if another company makes a guide of that shape it is "infringing on "The Big Guide Company's" trademark/copywrite". This one is in court, and unfortunately the man with the balls to fight it dropped dead from a heart attack. He was Bob Batson of Batson Enterprises, also known as RainShadow. I don't know if Bob's sons will still fight it or not. There are other companies who are involved, and some who have agreed to "license" from "The Big Guide Company" to avoid the lawsuit. No guts either. "The Big Guide Company" recently had a full-page ad in a fishing trade magazine explaining their side of the story. The 'other side' didn't appear of course. This is just too slimy.

There's more. How about a US company which makes vises for fly tying? I believe they had a patent, another mystery since the man who received the patent wasn't the inventor either, but since the two men who did invent it gave him their ideas I guess that makes it ok. Anyway, that patent also expired. So what did they do? Any guesses?

They made a bad drawing of a bent arm of a fly tying vise and made it their logo. Got the picture? So no other company can produce a bent-arm vise without "infringing" on the trademark. Letters went out, decease and desist - or - pay us for using our bent-arm design. To my knowledge no one is even fighting this one.

Tacky? Slippery? Slimy?

You bet! Add ego and greed to this one too.

I wonder if technically some hook company could trademark a shape of a hook and prevent any other company or person from producing that hook? Or how about a cardboard packing box in a logo of a moving company? Or the shape of a wheel? Or axle?

Get the picture?

It is extending the life of the patent, illegally by going around the law. Ah, just a loop hole. All is fair in business, right?

It's worse than you might think. Remember a patent has a life span? Depending on the type of patent it is 15 - 17 years. A TRADEMARK HAS NO TIME LIMIT.

There is however a five-year span where these trademarks can be revoked. Someone has to file with the trademark office to get them revoked. And by the way, both trademarks could be challenged because you can't use an integral functioning part of a product as a logo/trademark.

From where I sit, it doesn't look like any one has the balls to do that.

You think Enron, Global Crossing and Martha Stewart are the bad guys?

Think again, it's right here in the fly fishing world. ~ The LadyFisher

Editor's Note: July 14, 2003, 10:45 AM, Batson Enterprises will continue the fight against "The Big Guide Company".

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