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 Post subject: On Originality
PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2019 12:11 pm 
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Location: MI
Customizing 1911's has not been what I would call "lucrative" for me, but it's what I love doing (pretty sure that’s part of the lucrative problem :shock: ). I think I can say without bragging that I have brought some original ideas to the 1911 world-- not earth-shattering, not revolutionary perhaps, just utilitarian tweaks, logic and experience-based things, mostly. When someone takes my ideas without attribution / compensation / permission, they may think they are going around me, excluding me. But it actually makes me their consultant-- their unnamed, unpaid consultant. Their no-charge R&D service. It’s not no-charge to me— I put a lot of time into R&D…. a lot. That costs me, and naturally the idea is that somehow what I come up with, what I do with my mind and my hands, maybe some of it somehow helps me keep the lights on. Plus it’s me that hangs it out there and does whatever it may be on a 1911 to find out if people are going to like it, say ho-hum, or outright puke. So I’m doing their market research for them too! Let’s take FRAG for example. Although I had done it previously, the first time I put it out there publicly that I can find, on a forum, and called it FRAG, was at least twelve years ago (2007). Without making a project out of it, I found this one from a couple years later where I am introducing the VZ grips featuring FRAG:
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8297&hilit=FRAG+Out%21. ….

And although there are earlier posts talking about it, the pics are gone.

I think the fact that FRAG has been one of VZ Grips’ very top sellers and that Guncrafter Industries has also had a lot of demand for it (both use it via an agreement with me), and that Dan Wesson thought enough of it to come to me for an agreement, show FRAG to be appealing to gun people. Plus the fact that of my own orders for custom guns in the last dozen or more years, maybe 85% of them have not requested checkering or Conamyds, they have requested FRAG.

I’ve had a few 1911 ‘smiths ask me to do FRAG for them to guns that they would finish for a customer who had requested FRAG. Nothing at all wrong with that! In fact, I tried for three or four years to find a trustworthy source for doing a production-friendly version of FRAG so that I could offer exactly that service to other smiths and to individuals. I never found an outfit that wanted the work and that I felt confident in. Ultimately I chose quality over quantity—and money. I could have got this done, but quality and delivery would probably have been issues. I declined doing FRAG myself for the ‘smiths, 95% for scheduling reasons: I am in a constant struggle to get things done for guys that have been waiting, in some cases, a decade. These ‘smiths requesting FRAG have been guys whose work and whose ethics I know and respect, or, in one or two cases, guys I didn’t know anything about but I sure appreciated their courtesy in asking. At least two other smiths have just outright copied it as if originality and scruples did not exist, and credibility didn't matter. A fan of my work, I guess, and of some others too.

To guys that operate that way I will just say, may I suggest not trying to make your name on being a “really good imitator”. Your signature work should be recognizable as your own, not other people’s. Do I know that’s not easy, after all these years of the 1911 being the focus of other customizing niche-carvers going back to, for cryin’ out loud, the ‘30’s? Yup! I know that. And yet I and many of my 1911 contemporaries have managed to tease out new ideas, to create signature styles, to innovate and invent, to find something new. And something new is usually not something you just stumble over when you weren’t even trying. You try. Again I say, this is not just me; I’m not trying to set myself apart because there are many original thinkers out there and LTW happens to be rich in that way, but there are others that are not involved with LTW. Individuals and companies. Some companies will be found to have a whole cadre of smart, free-thinking people who are very capable at design and marketing. Even then, sometimes, they may reach out and acknowledge someone else’s idea as being the right thing, the thing they were looking for. Or they may just take it and pretend it’s theirs.

I have patented several things over the years, and if cost was no object I’d have a lot more, but— it’s damned expensive. I seem to have more ideas than money. One has to choose which to patent (Conamyds was one). I have two more that recently went from “pending” to being given a “notice of allowance”, in other words, once I pay the final fees a patent will be issued. Keywords here as far as the Patent Office is concerned, “pay fees”. Once you’ve paid them you’re not out of the woods. There are maintenance fees too “or we’ll take your patent away”:
Time intrvl Large Entity Small Entity
3.5 years: $1600.00 $800.00
7.5 years: $3600.00 $1800.00
11.5 years: $7400.00 $3700.00

So once you have your patent, if you want it to stay in force, you pay a ransom every so often. If it was gangster movie the patent office would send somebody by with greased-back hair in a pinstriped suit to say “Geez, that’s a nice patent ya got there. Be a shame if sumpin’ happened to it.” As a one-man outfit with only a handful of patents, I still don’t qualify to pay “only” the small entity fees of $6300, not a very good way of encouraging inventiveness by the little guy, right? It’s like the patent office thinks only Big Pharma and outfits like Apple and GM should be getting patents. So, many of my products, methods, and patterns aren’t patented.

If I was making a ton of money at all of this, I guess it might make less difference to me when I see something I designed or something I did first, something very much associated with me, get used without so much as a “F-you Ned”. But it’s not just about money. I try to maintain a clear conscience in the way I deal with people; I am not claiming to have reached perfection but I'll just say it is rewarding to deal with scrupulous people who are willing to acknowledge the source of something new and useful. So, I'm saying "thanks VZ, GI, and DW" for doing the right thing.


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 Post subject: Re: On Originality
PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2019 5:38 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2004 7:15 pm
Posts: 434
Ned, you can be that we notice when original ideas get "borrowed" from you or the other innovators. They will get none of my money.


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 Post subject: Re: On Originality
PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:42 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2004 5:30 pm
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Location: MI
'ppreciate that Bill.


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 Post subject: Re: On Originality
PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2019 7:54 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2004 8:16 am
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Location: Casper, WY
Very well put, Bill. Have a Merry Christmas!

_________________
CT Brian Custom
'Blending Art With Firepower'


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 Post subject: Re: On Originality
PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2019 10:40 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2004 7:15 pm
Posts: 434
CT, a Merry Christmas to you, Ned, and all the rest of the forum denizens!


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 Post subject: Re: On Originality
PostPosted: Tue Dec 24, 2019 4:13 am 
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Joined: Fri May 14, 2004 4:42 am
Posts: 765
Location: Combine, Texas
Ned. Very well put. Thanks again for all you do. Merry Christmas and Happy New Years.

_________________
Be safe and keep the brass flying

Terry Peters

Do your research but you get what you pay for front end or back end
http://www.pt-partners.com
@ptpartners_tx


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 Post subject: Re: On Originality
PostPosted: Wed Sep 30, 2020 7:09 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2004 5:30 pm
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Somebody just sent me this post from another site. I had forgotten about this little beauty, sporting FRAG in 2002.

https://www.1911forum.com/threads/michi ... ost-176807


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 Post subject: Re: On Originality
PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2021 7:39 am 
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Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2004 5:30 pm
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In the last month, many people have asked me if I have consulted with the 1911 manufacturer who recently brought out a pistol featuring my FRAG frontstrap pattern. They are concerned that there does not seem to be any mention of me being associated with it. It’s great having friends looking out for you!

The answer is yes, I did consult with that manufacturer on frontstrap patterns. I even sent them a sample frame a few years back with Conamyds. The consulting came about as they were looking for a new pattern to use that might become something of a brand recognition feature. I was happy to help, confident that if they used something of mine there would, at the least, be some sort of recognition for it. Conamyds were rejected as they are not terribly simple to do. FRAG was discussed and I mentioned that it can be done with standard, off the shelf cutters.

Well it took a while but it would seem they liked it! So yes, I consulted with them; I prototyped it for them; I did all their market research for them and determined for them, over a number of years, that the market likes FRAG, as evidenced by the percentage of custom guns that I do where FRAG is requested. Also indicating its popularity is that with my permission and via arrangements with me, VZ Grips is using FRAG (and pretty sure it’s their top seller); also Guncrafter and Dan Wesson.

The agreements by which VZ, GI, and DW are using FRAG are modest. There is no yacht, no Ferarri. But they all communicated with me and offered something in exchange for using FRAG, and all three credit me with being its originator. That’s called “doing the right thing”.

“Originator”: I always hasten to admit that I did not invent little squares, but I first put this pattern on a 1911 and called it “FRAG”. I took the risk of people saying “EW! What the…… that does not belong on a 1911!” No doubt there have been a few who said that but I have heard little to no negative reaction to FRAG. It has become the preferred pattern of pretty much all who I have done it for.
That is the market research I did for the 1911 manufacturer in question, as well as two others. And another 1911 smith (now two, at least-- Sept 2023). As I said in my first post above, “To guys that operate that way I will just say, may I suggest not trying to make your name on being a “really good imitator”. Your signature work should be recognizable as your own, not other peoples’.”

I have also consulted with the manufacturer in question—on the basis of “I love you guys and I want to help” -- on their AR15, as they were working towards bringing it out.

As a fan of the brand I once found myself in a position to facilitate the sale of (as I recall) seventy 1911’s to an agency that wanted to standardize the fleet and get rid of the seventy they had, that were a hodge-podge of brands and vintages. Not a giant sale but—it was not going to happen without me happening into it.

I’ve supported this brand in a number of other ways—because certain of their models have held up very, very well—so I let it be known in discussions and forums. Just telling it like it is, they owe me nothing for that. When a product is good, I love letting it be known. Nothing has changed about that; if and as they continue to make good stuff, I will continue to call it out as good.

I’m not shouting victim here. Just sharing the disappointment that comes when people you have admired, worked with, had dinner and drinks with—I guess the word I’m looking for is friends—when they see you have something they can wring some money out of, they take it and present it as their own. On a big balance scale there is on one side, friendship, scruples, honesty. On the other side is money….. sometimes the money wins.

They copied FRAG right down to the exact spacing of the lines. As to whether they copied that directly from me or from the previous company that copied it from me, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that they both made more money from FRAG in the first week than I have since 2002.


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