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Thread: What is missing from the Open Source paintball movement... (my opinion)

  1. #1

    What is missing from the Open Source paintball movement... (my opinion)

    This is more philosophical in intent, but a HUGE part of what lead to the proliferation of the open source software movement was the clarification of the lines of copyright and licensing. In the paintball industry our equivalent is patents. Paintball patents are an absolute disaster. There are overlapping claims, claims that were pre-dated and others that flat out will not work. I, for one, am tired of manufacturers hiding a genuine lack of ingenuity behind the threat of patent litigation.

    So, there are a few major keys I'd like to point out:
    • Prior Art - If the claim was predated with an existing design. (Maddman valve has this written ALL over it.)
    • Reasonably Obvious (to someone in the field) - I'm not sure this is much use, but the dump valve spool varieties should fall into this category.
    • Technical Errors - I would be willing to bet that most patents in our industry are based on pseudoscience and could be discredited here easily.
    • Failure to Disclose - I have been reading patents a lot lately and they must include the other similar items; most don't.
    • Due Diligence - They can't randomly start enforcing a patent... whoever owns the patent would be all over a new product that hits the market using *their* technology. Again, dump valves cross my mind.
    • Filing (Procedural) Errors - Unless someone here is a patent lawyer, I'd leave this to the pros.



    So what I'm saying is that in order for the open source paintball movement to progress we need to define our sandbox a little bit. My suggestion on how to do this is to build a paintball patent repository, categorize them by the major claims (valve, bolt operation, etc), and as a community start taking notes on what is covered (correctly) and where we're free to explore. I'd see this almost in a major spreadsheet that shows: category, patent filing number, official filing status, major claims, and a COMMUNITY status commentary. I'd be willing to bet that there are only a select few significant patents that would be left standing. This would really allow the open source paintball community to expand in breadth.


    Thoughts and opinions?

  2. #2
    Insider PBSteve's Avatar
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    The threat of patent litigation is real.

    And IMO, the real hurdle to open source paintball gear is manufacturing, not legal issues. Most companies won't bother going after short runs, it's not worth the money - and a lot of it falls under fair use.
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by PBSteve View Post
    The threat of patent litigation is real.

    And IMO, the real hurdle to open source paintball gear is manufacturing, not legal issues. Most companies won't bother going after short runs, it's not worth the money - and a lot of it falls under fair use.
    Yes, the threat is real but I sincerely doubt most of the infringement claims would go very far if they were to make it to court. Most people stop at cease and desist because nobody has the funds to fight.

    Not sure what you mean about fair use either. In software it pertains to the usage of something without the direct consent of the license holder. We have nothing resembling that. You use a version of a patented product and you pay royalties or face litigation.

    As far as the biggest obstacle, what exactly are we talking about here? New manufacturing processes are developed daily. With the advent of cloud based 3d printing available from places such as Cubify prototyping is getting cheaper. Given, when it comes to machined parts that is still a challenge, but I think it won't be long before even things like that are economically feasible. If a group of users go in together to get a batch run of a community project then it makes more sense. The problem is we don't really even have the latitude to do some things like that.

    As kind of a sidebar, but Simon's pico loader could easily be put up on that marketplace where anyone could print one by paying ONLY the cost of the printing service from cubify.


    Eventually, I think it'd be cool to offer a configure your own gun system. Pick the body, frame, trigger, internals, etc. or even at some point upload your own. The real appeal to open source is customization.

  4. #4
    Insider bronc's Avatar
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    Before we even had a shooting gun, we were threatened by with 2 lawsuits against what these people "thought" we were doing. Before we a single bolt finished, we were threatened not to release it, as it would infringe upon so and so's patent. And this was BEFORE we had anything finished and BEFORE anyone (including me) even saw the finished product...

    The bigger companies are stuck in a lurch, they can't spend the money to innovate. They over reached, like what happened to SP, and with the shrinking market are doing whatever they can to protect their market share. Hence it's a lot cheaper to have your lawyer threaten everyone then to dump ten or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a "innovative" new product. They keep with their incremental changes to their platforms, like new cosmetics, new colors, etc, which doesn't cost much. And when they do make a jump forward, it comes with a hefty price tag (hello DM14).

    But at this point there are just too many smaller companies innovating new things and coming up with new methods that don't infringe on patents anymore. The last obstacle is really the BS patents owned by KEE for the solenoid and electronics, which we're still all forced to pay on.

    The reason TAS didn't launch in 2012 was due to the $$ I had to personally dish out to a lawyer to serve those 2 companies with our reply, and C&D letters for harassment. It worked, but it broke the bank and set us back 2 years. So while we "won", the other guys actually accomplished their goals.

    So a big F- you to those 2 companies. They know who they are.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by bronc View Post
    Before we even had a shooting gun, we were threatened by with 2 lawsuits against what these people "thought" we were doing. Before we a single bolt finished, we were threatened not to release it, as it would infringe upon so and so's patent. And this was BEFORE we had anything finished and BEFORE anyone (including me) even saw the finished product...

    The bigger companies are stuck in a lurch, they can't spend the money to innovate. They over reached, like what happened to SP, and with the shrinking market are doing whatever they can to protect their market share. Hence it's a lot cheaper to have your lawyer threaten everyone then to dump ten or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a "innovative" new product. They keep with their incremental changes to their platforms, like new cosmetics, new colors, etc, which doesn't cost much. And when they do make a jump forward, it comes with a hefty price tag (hello DM14).

    But at this point there are just too many smaller companies innovating new things and coming up with new methods that don't infringe on patents anymore. The last obstacle is really the BS patents owned by KEE for the solenoid and electronics, which we're still all forced to pay on.

    The reason TAS didn't launch in 2012 was due to the $$ I had to personally dish out to a lawyer to serve those 2 companies with our reply, and C&D letters for harassment. It worked, but it broke the bank and set us back 2 years. So while we "won", the other guys actually accomplished their goals.

    So a big F- you to those 2 companies. They know who they are.
    ^^^ My point exactly. You were trying to innovate, yet the poor patent definitions made it almost impossible for you to circumnavigate. The other gross part of it is that if you weren't careful in your replies then you may have inadvertently disclosed some of your own design. I agree with Simon that an open source concept will be good for innovation in our sport, but we're playing a game in which the "big name players" write the rules as we go. If the OS market were to be flooded with ideas to fill the conceptual gaps not currently patented then good business practices and the voice of the customer would serve as the market's natural selection.

  6. #6
    Insider PBSteve's Avatar
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    The issue doesn't sound like it originated from definitions within the patents; it was their inappropriate exploitation by the patent holders. I don't know how to get around that.
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  7. #7
    i think the real issue isn't patents, isn't a lack of open source, i think the fundamental problem is still growth.

    in the late 1990s, early 2000s, there were literally HUNDREDS of paintball companies. very small, very nimble, very innovative, and we saw the paintball marketplace change rapidly.

    now, some say the death of this environment was patents, i disagree.

    the death of this environment was the unification and absorption or rejection of all these small companies. as the paintball marketplace stagnated, lines were drawn by the big players, and they more or less unified themselves into a block. now we have what ... 5 big players ... and almost no one else. vertical integration and leveraging of off shore production only made it worse, but again, if there was growth, you'd see the small innovators coming back. if the innovators can make a couple hundred guns, or upgrades for guns or whatever, they could make a buck. but no one can, because the market growth isn't there.

    we see this same trend in a lot of things in modern life. banking, media companies, etc etc, the same thing happened to paintball.

    - - - Updated - - -

    i think the real issue isn't patents, isn't a lack of open source, i think the fundamental problem is still growth.

    in the late 1990s, early 2000s, there were literally HUNDREDS of paintball companies. very small, very nimble, very innovative, and we saw the paintball marketplace change rapidly.

    now, some say the death of this environment was patents, i disagree.

    the death of this environment was the unification and absorption or rejection of all these small companies. as the paintball marketplace stagnated, lines were drawn by the big players, and they more or less unified themselves into a block. now we have what ... 5 big players ... and almost no one else. vertical integration and leveraging of off shore production only made it worse, but again, if there was growth, you'd see the small innovators coming back. if the innovators can make a couple hundred guns, or upgrades for guns or whatever, they could make a buck. but no one can, because the market growth isn't there.

    we see this same trend in a lot of things in modern life. banking, media companies, etc etc, the same thing happened to paintball.
    social conservatism: the mortal fear that someone, somewhere, might be having fun.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by PBSteve View Post
    The issue doesn't sound like it originated from definitions within the patents; it was their inappropriate exploitation by the patent holders. I don't know how to get around that.
    I went back and read that and realized that too, but I don't know how to edit a post here. I honestly believe if/when people see a few frivolous patents challenged and thrown out it'll go a long way.


    Quote Originally Posted by cockerpunk View Post
    i think the real issue isn't patents, isn't a lack of open source, i think the fundamental problem is still growth.

    in the late 1990s, early 2000s, there were literally HUNDREDS of paintball companies. very small, very nimble, very innovative, and we saw the paintball marketplace change rapidly.

    now, some say the death of this environment was patents, i disagree.

    the death of this environment was the unification and absorption or rejection of all these small companies. as the paintball marketplace stagnated, lines were drawn by the big players, and they more or less unified themselves into a block. now we have what ... 5 big players ... and almost no one else. vertical integration and leveraging of off shore production only made it worse, but again, if there was growth, you'd see the small innovators coming back. if the innovators can make a couple hundred guns, or upgrades for guns or whatever, they could make a buck. but no one can, because the market growth isn't there.

    we see this same trend in a lot of things in modern life. banking, media companies, etc etc, the same thing happened to paintball.

    What each person believes happens in a competitive market place will probably be better left to a political forum, but I tend to think we'll all agree that competition is good for the consumer. In the case above we saw a very specific case of a big player tossing around weight and either stalling or killing a new market entry. That is a direct example of what I mean. Market growth can be attributed to multiple factors, but one that I hear most commonly is the price of paintball. High-end guns now seem to hover around ~$1500. Balls are $45-85 a case around here, not to mention all the other stuff we use. Competition has a tendency to drive costs down and in turn the market expands.

  9. #9
    Insider PBSteve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blueshifty View Post
    What each person believes happens in a competitive market place will probably be better left to a political forum, but I tend to think we'll all agree that competition is good for the consumer. In the case above we saw a very specific case of a big player tossing around weight and either stalling or killing a new market entry. That is a direct example of what I mean. Market growth can be attributed to multiple factors, but one that I hear most commonly is the price of paintball. High-end guns now seem to hover around ~$1500. Balls are $45-85 a case around here, not to mention all the other stuff we use. Competition has a tendency to drive costs down and in turn the market expands.
    Normally yes.

    However, when you start talking about $1500 markers, it's less clear to me that the overall market will expand. Those markers are not targeted to new entries; they're targeted to the established player base. Of course you'll sell more units if you push that price down, but I don't see it introducing the sport to more players or even keeping people around significantly longer.
    Last edited by PBSteve; 11-15-2013 at 08:46 PM.
    A Radiant Purple Sky Ribbon That Defies Explanation
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  10. #10
    I hear ya broski, but the problem for me is NOT the $1500 markers themselves, but rather what allowed them to get that way. The big 4-5 pretty well control the market top to BOTTOM. Fact is, there aren't may options. It's exciting to me to see companies like J4, TAS and some other small companies really pushing the industry because they're passionate instead of greedy. The problem is when people with a lot of passion and not so many resources try to do anything they're stifled by the threat of a patent infringement lawsuit. bronc already provided one very real case. I mean seriously, when I start researching this stuff my head starts spinning. As far as I can tell, MacDev not DP owns the dump valve patent. Is PE paying royalties to MacDev? I mean come on... there's no room to explore anymore. All that's left for us is to just repackage what's already been done.
    Last edited by blueshifty; 11-15-2013 at 10:03 PM.

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