Editors Note: This post has been updated following a phone conversation with Microtech counsel Daniel Lawson. Changes made are in bold and the original text remains in place with a “strikethrough”.
When I concluded my post last night with the semi-prophetic words “Stay tuned, this looks to be far from over”, I wasn’t postulating that I would have more to write about the Matrix/ZT 0777/Natrix dust-up and the Microtech lawsuit against Anthony Sculimbrene today.
This latest news began bubbling on BladeForums and Reddit in the past couple of days, and I received a tip this afternoon. Microtech and their lead designer Anthony Marfione have filed a lawsuit against KAI (parent company of ZT, Kershaw, and Shun) and their Social Media Manager Kale Beyer who, as Microtech refers to it – “uttered, published, and distributed defamatory statements as to Marfione”). I would simply call it sharing Anthony Sculimbrene’s piece “The Story behind the Greatest Knife of All-time” from Everyday Commentary on social media.
Or as Firefly puts it:
(The first of the links above contains an archive of the “comment” section of the Everyday Commentary piece where some of the more inflammatory statements from Mr. Sculimbrene, such as what might be construed as a comparison between Marfione and serial-killer Jared Loughner (I personally read it as Sculimbrene illustrating a situation where he wouldn’t need to ask both parties for comment on a particular issue, but it is mentioned in the complaint, and thus I mention it here).
It is worth mentioning that no matter what one might think of the similarities between the Matrix/ZT0777/Natrix, patenting a knife design, while possible is largely ineffective. You can however patent a specific mechanism such as a blade-lock, and KAI
did file an earlier lawsuit against sent Cease & Desist letters to Microtech and several other companies for infringing on their sub-framelock design at which point Microtech ceased & desisted (Microtech’s full response here). Sculimbrene, who is an attorney, describes this in his piece. Patent law in particular is such a specific discipline that it has its own separate Bar Exam in many states. I am not an attorney, and I haven’t examined the locks in question, so I am going to refrain from commenting further on this particular issue. on the merits of that lawsuit.
I am much more concerned with the chilling effect that the Microtech lawsuits against Sculimbrene and Kale Beyer might have on the principle of Free Speech. There have already been lawsuits targeting negative customer reviews on sites like Yelp. I shudder to think what this precedent might do to the kind of reviews we write at TTAK.
In the end, nothing Sculimbrene said about Marfione and Microtech hadn’t been discussed ad infinitum in various niche blogs and forums catering to hard-core knife enthusiasts. I would be curious as to whether Everyday Commentary gets as many daily page-views as a site like BladeForums. It would have stayed there were it not for the lawsuits filed by Microtech. (See Streisand Effect)
Microtech claims that their reputation has been damaged by the writings of Sculimbrene and the social media sharing of that piece by KAI and Beyer. It is my opinion, and the opinion of several people I have spoken with that Microtech and Marfione’s conduct in filing these lawsuits has done far more damage to their reputation than anything done by any third party in this case.
Tying up some loose ends. I have contacted both KAI and Microtech seeking comment or official statement on the matters in question.
I received an official “No Comment” from a representative of KAI.
I received an automated response from Microtech saying that they would try to address my query within 24 hours. I will update if I hear back from them. Which I have. Consequently, I have made some changes in a limited window of time,
and will update further when time allows. Microtech issued an official statement on their Facebook Page, so I will move further comment to this post on the subject.
Finally, I would like to give a tip of the hat to Alex Antoniou of Knifenews.com. While I received an independent tip on this latest suit, and have done my own research for this post, Alex has been covering this quagmire from the beginning and beat us to press today. I did not quote or cite him tonight, but thought it best to disclose that I read his piece prior to writing mine.