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Company forum: Patents and intellectual property

June 1st, 2008 / By: / Industry News

Intellectual property and patents are hot-button topics in the tent industry, especially among manufacturers. InTents gathered opinions on the issue from a few industry insiders.

Suzanne Warner, Tentnology Co., Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

There are a number of different elements with the intellectual property issue. For example, creative design or presentation to clients. That is considered copyright, but then they can take that and job it out to somebody else to either fabricate or rent it. Another issue is downright taking other people’s designs and blatantly copying them. People have done this with our cross-cable peak tent.

If somebody buys one of our Saddlespan tents, they can promote it because they bought it. But if a client doesn’t pay his bills, doesn’t follow safety guidelines for installation, etc., then I would like the control to be able to say he can’t use our brand. I have a client who did an advertisement in a magazine; I don’t want him advertising the Saddlespan in a way unbecoming to the brand.

The internet has really brought to light some of these issues and problems. Somebody actually bought saddlespan.com. It’s suddenly so much easier for people to usurp your trade names and brands.

Dan Nolan, Tents Unlimited, Atlanta, Ga.

I believe that the consumer is becoming ever more educated about the manufacturing processes for tenting and related products. I believe the driving force behind individual companies making the like products that are compatible with major manufacturers’ offerings is the fact that the manufacturers’ prices continue to rise at a faster rate than the rental companies’ prices can increase, and that creates a void rental companies have to be smart enough to fill. Assuming the products are safe, it also creates a financial competitive advantage in how you can afford to execute events.

As far as patents are concerned, what I am seeing come to the market does not violate any patents. This process is just the normal business cycle that you would see in any other business model. For example, coffee makers are all very similar and do the same thing. Tents are no different. After a technology has been around long enough, other companies will either copy with minor changes or build essentially the same thing. As our industry matures, we will see this more and more.

Steve Fredrickson, Ferrari Textiles Corp., Pompano Beach, Fla.

Certainly from my experience there are always people making claims that cannot be backed up. I know of several companies that claim they produce using Precontraint technology just like Ferrari. It’s simply not true. It’s a patented process, and tests have shown these to be nowhere near the same construction as our products. But I also think there will always be those that use this method of sales. In the end, it’s up to customers to challenge such claims.

It’s of course disappointing to see someone completely copy a product; lots of time and especially money go into developing new technologies. One concern I have is that it does nothing to move the market forward—it’s just creating another item. Our industry needs new developments, technologies and products, not more of the same. Innovation is what has driven our society—not copying.

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