Bionic Wrench manufacturer pursues a patent infringment case against his competitor in China

Posted by scapozzola on 11/27/2012

We've previously reported on the story of Dan Brown and his patent fight with Sears over his Bionic Wrench.  In recent years, Brown had given Sears the exclusive rights to sell his patented, award-winning, made-in-America tool.  It subsequently became a popular Christmas gift.

As the New York Times' Shaila Dewan recently reported, Sears has not renewed its orders for the Bionic Wrench this year.  Instead, it is selling a competing, less-expensive version of the tool that is made in China.

In a follow-up interview with the New York Times' Gene Marks, Brown explained that his case against the competing brand from China is emblematic of the challenges facing many small U.S. manufacturers. For one thing, he now has to pursue a patent infringment case against his Chinese competitor.  Brown says that, in the U.S., patent infringment is a civil, not criminal, issue.  This "allows infringers to proceed unchecked for years in the marketplace, often destroying the market, business, and investment of the patent rights owner. The current system forces the victim to fight a protracted and expensive legal battle."

In addition to the challenges of a legal case, Brown faces the uncertainty of fighting against a heavily subsidized producer in China.  Marks asked Brown why he originallt decided to manufacture his product in the U.S.

Brown explained:

Ironically, I have been called crazy for trying to make a product in this category in the U.S. I can understand why some people think this; we certainly did not take the easy path with the Bionic Wrench. We are also committed to doing the right thing socially. Again, this may sound crazy for a businessperson to recognize that he has a social responsibility beyond his need to create and sustain a business. However, this is precisely why we chose to produce the Bionic Wrench in the States. What drives this passion in me is that I was raised by blue-collar parents, who worked extremely hard to provide a decent life for our family. We did not have a lot of money, and we were not raised to value money higher than ethics. We were raised to do the right thing.

Marks also pondered the overall pros and cons of imports vs. domestic goods, asking Brown, "If cheaper products can be made elsewhere that benefit the American consumer, why not let the marketplace decide?"

Brown responded:

The right thing to do is to enforce innovation rights. These rights create jobs, economic benefits and profits for our society, while our patent-piracy tolerance destroys the economic benefits we seek. If a product like ours — a patented, award-winning innovation and an American-made business model — is destroyed by the cannibalistic capitalism of our marketplace, what products can survive to create jobs in our society? Simply, if we cannot produce innovative products domestically, what products can we produce domestically?

ManufactureThis wishes Dan Brown all the best in his very legitimate patent infringment case, and congratulates him on building the Bionic Wrench in the U.S.  We'll be certain to provide updates on his case.

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