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.
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/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.