The ink was hardly dry on the Nautilus deal to sell certain commercial assets of StairMaster and Schwinn when SNEWS® received an email and call from Commando Dave.
“I've got details you don't have,” he wrote. “I have been fighting StairMaster for a decade over my patent for the rack they stole and eventually incorporated into their machines.”
Commando Dave, aka David Allen, a sports marketer/radio host in the Seattle area, said all he wanted was “his fair share of the deal.”
He led us to his website (www.commandodave.com) which took us down yet another rabbit hole like we went down when we were tracking the true identity of Fit Dragon and its affiliate Core Fitness, the announced new owners of the commercial assets sold by Nautilus. (Click here to see a Dec. 18, 2009, SNEWS story, “Fit Dragon unveiled as Land America taking over Nautilus commercial as Core Fitness.”
The “Commando Dave show” on his website illustrates with slide shows, blogs, essays, photos, videos, letters, emails and other commentary why he says he has a claim that dates back to when he approached StairMaster in the late ‘90s about a license or other deal for his reading rack design. He told SNEWS he invented Rackit in 1991. StairMaster apparently declined his concept in August 1998 or about three months before he was granted a design patent (DES 400,941) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (click here to see his patent).
According to C. Reed Brown, general counsel for Land America, which is the company behind Fit Dragon, Commando Dave’s claim was not in the disclosure papers by Nautilus, indicating to him that Nautilus was not aware of the claims. In addition, he explained that design patents aren’t worth much.
“Everybody uses reading racks,” he said. “It’s as if I claimed I had a patent for four wheels on a car.”
SNEWS has tried to work its way through Commando Dave’s web show and although the alter ego “Commando Dave” can leave you with a furrowed brow and the website takes a serious effort to navigate, it does appear that Nautilus did know about the claim. However, the claim’s “validity and enforceability” were questioned (See a 2005 letter from a Nautilus counsel to Allen by clicking here).
Apparently the letter resulted in a telephone conversation in which the Nautilus counsel offered Allen $2,000 while Allen requested $250,000. (Click here to see that result.)
Allen told SNEWS, “They never had any motivation to deal with me straight up.
“Remove the Commando Dave, remove the sunglasses, remove the show and all that,… and the paper trail is there,” he added. According to his blog, “Commando Dave is an alter ego; part Incredible Hulk/part Black Panther.”
Nearly a dozen years after the saga began, Allen has also now fired off an email to the executives at R.W. Baird, the investment banking firm that helped negotiate the Nautilus sale.
His design patent expires in 2012.