Thanks to a post by Linoge on Facebook, I became aware of a lawsuit filed at the end of last week by knife company Cold Steel against fellow knife company Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT). It seems that Cold Steel is upset over an advertising claim by CRKT that some of the CRKT lock systems make their folding knives “virtual fixed blade” knives. Rather than fighting it out in the marketplace and the court of public opinion, Cold Steel has filed suit in US District Court for the Central District of California.
Cold Steel and CRKT both serve what I would call the mass middle market of the knife industry. You have the Frosts and Uniteds who make their knives in Pakistan and China on the low end with the Benchmades, Emersons, and Chris Reeve Knives on the higher end. I have a number of knives from both companies including some with the disputed lock systems by CRKT.
Lynn Thompson, president of Cold Steel, explained his lawsuit as being about safety and “protecting customers fingers”. He says he had sent a letter to CRKT demanding they amend their advertising copy which CRKT ignored. His post makes it sound like he is engaging in lawfare out of altruism. He does say that any profits from the lawsuit will be donated to Knife Rights. Frankly, it sounds like he is getting a lot of heat about it.
The lawsuit below contends that the “virtual fixed blade” advertising claim for CRKT’s knives that have LAWKS, AutoLAWKS, and L.B.S. is “a completely false claim” and that these knives “will fail catastrophically when significant pressure is applied.” Cold Steel alleges that the locking mechanism can be caused to fail by applying slight pressure on the spine or side of the knife. They contend this become a safety issue “if the knife is used to stab a hard surface or pry a resilient material.” To me it would seem that stabbing a hard surface or using a knife as a pry bar is an intentional misuse of a knife regardless of whether it is a folder or fixed blade.
Cold Steel contends the advertising claims of CRKT have caused an “immediate and irreparable injury” for which they are entitled to a permanent injunction of those claims. Moreover, they are asking for actual damages, the profits that CRKT has made from the sale of these knives, exemplary damages, court and attorney’s fees, AND three times the profits that CRKT made or losses that Cold Steel alleges to have incurred, whichever is greater.
As anyone who has attended a NRA Annual Meeting or seen one of Cold Steel’s videos will know, Lynn Thompson is a showman. This lawsuit, to me, comes under the heading of lawfare – using the courts against your competitors – and is frivolous. I don’t think it really has much to do with false advertising or a concern for the customer but rather a different way to draw attention to yourself and your company. The timing of it is also suspect. It was filed two days before the opening of the June 5-7 Blade Show. This is the knife industry’s version of SHOT.
My contact at CRKT says an official response from them will be forthcoming. When it is, I will publish it.
My personal response to this lawsuit will be to vote with my wallet. I won’t be buying any new Cold Steel knives in the future. I don’t approve of lawfare and I won’t subsidize it with my consumer spending. In fact, I may just have to buy that CRKT Liong Mah GSD knife I
fondled handled at the SHOT Show.