Glock fighting it out with Airsoft companies over trademarks

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Airsplat, one of the biggest distributors in the airsoft community, has been duking it out left and right with international handgun giant Glock over the design of their pistols for the past four years. Now, Ken Wu, an owner of Airsplat, is contending that the Austrian gun megalith is doing so because they want to break into the airsoft/milsim market on their own.

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WE G35 Auto Airsoft Gas Blowback Gun, photo credit, AirSplat

Last month Glock filed a lawsuit against AirSplat over the company's distribution of airsoft replicas that resemble their pistol designs. As part of the suit, Glock is requesting all profits from the sales of the replicas, triplicate of the actual damages, as well as any sum deemed appropriate by the court, attorney's and legal fees, interest, and the destruction of all replicas.

Miami New Times interview

In a piece published Thursday, Ken Wu spoke at length about the running battle between Airsplat and Glock.

Glock first went after Ken Wu, an owner of AirSplat - a California-based maker of realistic-looking plastic guns that shoot harmless plastic pellets - four years ago. But that case fizzled, and now Glock is going after the 100-employee company again.

Wu says the big gun maker is using underhanded tactics aimed at intimidating, such as naming eight AirSplat aliases as defendants. "They kind of just threw everything in," Wu says. "They're trying to add fuel to the fire."

Wu says his company produces toys and has cost Glock absolutely no damages. The corporation's real motivation with the suit, he contends, is to bully everyone out of the burgeoning airsoft market so Glock can make its own entrance. "Gosh - you're a little late to the party," he says.

Wu sees the case as a matter of his business's life and death. A loss to Glock now, he says, would set the precedent that the entire replica gun industry is illegitimate - an idea he views as absurd. "What we're trying to do is take a stand," he says, "not only for ourselves but for the industry as a whole."


For their part, Glocks' attorneys have argued that companies such as AirSplat are diluting their product recognition and it's the larger company that is suffering.

This comes largely from Glock trademarking the style of their gun in 2004.

We aren't making this up.

In 2001, the company filed a TradeMark request with the US Government's Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) --although their basic look was at that time already twenty years old-- to copyright the exterior appearance of their guns. After deliberation, the Government issued and registered trademark #76279422 on January 27, 2004.

In the registration, it lists the following mark description:

"The mark consists of the three dimensional overall configuration of a semi-automatic pistol having a blocky an squared-off shape as viewed from the side, the front, and the rear. The vertical lines at the rear of the slide indicate ridges. The stippling is a feature of the mark and not intended to indicate color. The dotted lines indicate features that are not claimed as a part of the mark. Neither the shape of the notch on the rear sight nor the circular shape of the interior of the barrel are claimed as a part of the mark. The shape of the trigger guard and the shape, location, and a position of the trigger safety tab are claimed as a part of the mark, but no claim is made to the shape of the trigger separate from the trigger safety tab."

This isn't the first time that Glock has gone after near-clones of their guns.

issc-m22-2-handgun-319.jpg
(ISSC/ASA lost a case four years ago when they had to reconfigure their 22LR caliber M22 pistol, above, because it was too Glock-y)

In 2010, they settled a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against Austrian Sporting Arms, Inc. (ASA) and ISSC Handels GmbH (ISSC). The lawsuit involved claims for trade dress infringement, trade dress dilution, and unfair competition based on ASA's sales of a .22 caliber pistol known as the M22, which is manufactured in Austria by ISSC.

Glock had the M22 has an appearance that is confusingly similar to the distinctive appearance and overall image of their pistols and in the settlement agreed to redesign the M22 and not import any further guns of the type until the redesign was complete. Plus, ASA/ISSC had to pay Glock an undisclosed amount of scratch as well.

Besides, they have gone after Bruni, Sportsman's Guide, Gamo USA, Academy Toy Company, and Daisy over replicas of their guns.

They also won a multi-million dollar copyright infringement lawsuit in 1997 after a three-year battle with Smith and Wesson over that company's Sigma series pistols.

Either way, if Wu is right, someday soon the Austrian company itself may make the only airsoft Glocks out there.

Only time will tell.

Glock fighting it out with Airsoft companies over trademarks - Shooter - g18c-318.jpg
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8 COMMENTS
Posted: 
April 25, 2014  •  11:20 AM
Pretty good informative article... this should just be something stateside companies expect.... if they make airsoft replica of real steal guns they either need to ask for or partner with them... simple as that. Glock owns the rights to their guns design whether it be a real or fake gun.
 
Posted: 
April 26, 2014  •  05:38 AM
Yes but the statute they are using is in relation to real steel firearms. In other examples of this a company can ask for the opposing party to stop (as is the case with Magpul) but outside of asking they can't really take them to court.

Besides Wu's assertion is quite off. Glock has repeatedly said they have no interest at all in branching out into a replica market (even at the behest of multiple police and military trainers) and encourage people to use their laser training aids.

May just be my opinion but it seems like Glock backed the wrong horse in regards to training aids and now just wants to try and force people to use it now that a better alternative exists.

Besides this is really just pointless in the long run. Even if by some miracle Glock does impose a permanent moratorium on replicas sold in the US, it has no sway or power overseas in HK/Tawian/Japan. Over there they really couldn't give a shit. And if you simply ask to have the frame and slide separated from each other for shipping it would get through any customs check.

Somehow I doubt Glock can force the federal government to start checking every single package that comes in from HK just because it's throwing a hissy fit.

At least in the case of Eotech vs Replicas I can see the argument. Someone being sold a fake Eotech thats going into combat or on duty could pose a real problem and may get them killed.
 
Posted: 
April 28, 2014  •  12:36 PM
Actually, the reason Glock pursues (what it sees) as copyright infringements has nothing to do with eventually wanting to break into the airsoft market. It's because Gaston Glock doesn't want "Glock" to become synonymous with polymer frame, striker fired handguns. He wants Glock to continue to have its own identity. Hell, I've already seen that with people who aren't familiar with guns, thinking that "Glock" is synonymous with "handgun" (think Kleenex or Lego if you want examples). Gaston wants Glock to continue to have its own identity, independent of some of the pistol's competitors, like the Springfield XD or the Smith and Wesson M&P lines. And even if I'm not thrilled with it, I can respect that.
 
Posted: 
April 28, 2014  •  09:35 PM
We have responded to this lawsuit on our blog. Please review at
http://blog.airsplat.com/2014/04/stand-your-ground-glock-v-airsplat-goliaths-attempt-to-crush-david-and-his-community.html
 
Posted: 
April 30, 2014  •  07:15 PM
If Glock does make a airsoft replica I think it would be a pretty high quality gun. Its still said however watching Glock try to assult airsoft.
 
Posted: 
June 10, 2014  •  08:09 PM
Sad how Glock thinks they can use they excuse that they were planning to get into the airsoft market and now their company is losing recognition and money over it. For fucks sake why don't they make it happen? With all the gun rights and stuff and people saying they would defend their right to own firearms (which I'm sure Glock supports obviously), that's all they're doing in the end; taking away what people love. I bought a KWA ATP v.2 in an attempt to avoid the whole issue in generally but I guess it doesn't take trademarks on my gun to have to fall in the line of stealing their trades. I kinda lost respect for Glock. If they were more of a people company they wouldn't go so far as to suing people left and right over a style of trigger guards like oh my god what a crappy attitude.
May as well just let Glock make their own replicas, see the ridiculously overpriced products they try to push out to "make up all the lost profit" and watch the criticism roll in. As much as I would love to have actual Glock replicas made by Glock, the whole ordeal is just gonna be a big pile of shit in general by the time they do decide to make an attempt.
 
Posted: 
June 29, 2014  •  10:38 PM
But if it's from asia, all they need to do is tape over the trades :P
 
Posted: 
July 8, 2014  •  09:01 AM
All I can say is that there would be no issue if the Airsoft manufacturers were to license the making of the airsoft copies of the real firearms from the makers such as Glock. The reason there is no controversy over say an M4 copy is that the patent that Colt had for the M16/ AR15 went public years ago. That is why you have so many copies both of the real firearm and the airsoft version.
 
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