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Thread: Attention knife and razor makers

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    Admin & Forum fixer Bruno's Avatar
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    Default Attention knife and razor makers

    It seems that cold steel trademarked the term 'san mai' some time ago, and is now aggressively going after small knifemakers who use the term san mai to describe the construction of a knife. I have seen pictures of cease and desist letters that were sent out to independent smiths/

    SAN MAI Trademark: Cold Steel Issues Open Letter to the Knife Community ┬╗

    Personally I think this is an extremely underhanded thing to do because the term 'san mai' is generic in our industry. Apple trademarked 'apple' because it was a unqiue brandname in their market. What cold steel has done is equivalent to a fruit seller trademarking the generic name of a fruit, and then sending out C&D letters to other fruitsellers.

    Because of the genericness, I doubt it would hold up in court if it ever got that far, but they could of course spend you to death long before you got to that point. Their trademark is registered in the US (I guess it could not hold up in Japan ) so it's of no concern to me, but I do think it is low to trademark the name of a construction method as a brand name. I'd boycott them but let's be honest, I have never owned anything they made, and doubt I would even without this mess. But I do have a good friend who bought cold steel knives for dirty use in the field, and showed him the above link. With a bit of luck he'll buy from a different brand in the future.

    So if you are a US based smith, keep an eye on this to see if it affects you.
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    Senior Member Baxxer's Avatar
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    Borrowed from another part of the web but on top of the ridiculousness of the claim it seems like they are also being dishonest about what they actually have copyrighted since their three copyrights are for two stylized logos and the Name "SAN MAI III".

    Cold Steel / "SAN MAI" kerfuffle - Album on Imgur
    Last edited by Baxxer; 05-04-2016 at 09:56 PM.
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    I will quote Cold Steel's response to this concern, seen in the link above:

    "Cold Steel just issued the following statement to KnifeNews.com including a note from Lynn Thompson:
    There is a lot of confusion between the process of forging or manufacturing three-layered-steel and the name San Mai« as used in America today. These are two very different things.
    It’s important to make this very clear. Cold Steel claims no ownership of a process, and is not trying to stop people from making three-layer steel knives or swords.
    That is a huge misunderstanding."
    Don't label the blade SAN MAI as a named item. You should be able to refer to the blade as "having been forged using traditional Japanese san mai construction..."

    I think the long weight of Japanese, or Korean, or Chinese blade smithing history prior to 1986 will pretty much bring an end to Cold Steel's attempts to define the construction of a blade as something they own by virtue of trademark rights. Even Cold Steel admits in its response that they are two very different things.

    Cold Steel's concerns will not in the least hinder my shop practices making san mai stylee billets or failing to properly use the term to describe said construction within the context of Japanese metal working techniques.

    Someone who lives in Japan should approach some smiths with this statement. I suspect laughter will be the response.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baxxer View Post
    Borrowed from another part of the web but on top of the ridiculousness of the claim it seems like they are also being dishonest about what they actually have copyrighted since their three copyrights are for two stylized logos and the Name "SAN MAI III".

    Cold Steel / "SAN MAI" kerfuffle - Album on Imgur
    There was another fellow who tried to do the same thing with wootz awhile back. Claimed he had patent rights or somesuch when the application was for a heat treatment process and not a steel construction process. Nice job truth checking Baxxer!

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    Indeed. And Mike while you are correct of course, C&D letters were set out to any smith using the term san mai as the construction of the blade, not using it as a name or brand.
    Happiness is a field, littered with the mangled corpses of your enemies. - Vlad III of Wallachia

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    maybe they're going broke And this is their last desperate stand.

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    Baxxer's point is that they have trademarked a logo, the image of SAN MAI and the three squiggly lines. Unless a maker was using that image, Cold Steel will have a difficult time arguing there is some inappropriate use of the logo. Their statement admits to the difference between an image and a process. As far as my reading leads me, no one has yet taken this to court for an opinion.

    My experience tells me that often the unknowing (or believing that they are not knowledgeable) are accused of some infraction and simply give up because the apparent authority says so. The more you know, the less there is to fear.

    Something else is motivating this as "news" in the knife world. If you wanted to argue it, anyone using suminagashi steel is in violation of the trademark, except there is no mark, merely three layer construction. There are a lot of big companies using multi bar construction steel. I have some friends working with them and I will pose this very question. Someone has to have bounced off Cold Steel in between now and 1986.
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    Senior Member Baxxer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Blue View Post
    .... Nice job truth checking Baxxer!
    Thanks but I can't take full credit since I've just been following this mess and saw someone else point it out a few days ago.
    When life breaks your hones, make slurry stones

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    The concensus on other blafeforums was as mike said. The problem is they claim using the term san mai is confusing to customers and resembles their tm. It is bs of course but they can afford lawyers and we don't. So public outcry and negative press is the best way to get them to back down because lawyering up is simply not an option for most of us.

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    I believe the Falkniven blade i purchased last year is called a laminated blade, but its the same process.
    Northeastern Texas & Southeastern Oklahoma Mentor/Helper...PM me if I can assist you.
    God Bless,
    Scott

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