Mother not taking to knock-offs with a familial air

When Mother was launched to the hunting industry at SHOT Show by outdoor industry veteran Marty Grabijas in 2004, it quickly garnered rave reviews as the first company to bring outdoor industry technical features to a traditional hunting vest. However, all the rapid success has garnered Grabijas some attention he didn’t want -- companies now looking to his designs and, he says, knocking them off.
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When Mother was launched to the hunting industry at SHOT Show by outdoor industry veteran Marty Grabijas in 2004, it quickly garnered rave reviews as the first company to bring outdoor industry technical features to a traditional hunting vest. Grabijas' hunting vests featured hydration compatibility, advanced suspension systems, weight-bearing hip belts and more.

However, all the rapid success has garnered Grabijas some attention he didn’t want -- companies now looking to his designs and, he says, knocking them off.

"Mother was an exercise in frustration for me, and its birth is best summed up by its full name -- Necessity is the Mother of Invention -- which, by the way is trademarked," Grabijas told SNEWS®. "No one in the marketplace had a way for upland hunters to comfortably carry gear in the field, so we created it."

Despite the company name, the appearance of products he feels are decidedly too similar in appearance to his own designs has Grabijas feeling a little less than motherly toward his competitors and he's begun serving notice that enough is enough.

SNEWS® obtained court documents from the Western District Court of Washington, filed Sept. 21, 2006, on behalf of Mother, that charge L.L. Bean with violation of trade dress, unfair competition under the Lanham Act, and unfair business practices.

In 2005, L.L. Bean featured the Mother Day Pack in its catalog and, according to court papers filed by Mother's attorney, was successful at selling it. However, L.L. Bean stopped ordering the pack and around June 2006, according to court documents, began offering its own version of the hunting vest, the Upland Vest Pack, which, Mother alleges, is being produced using the same design as the Mother Day Pack in the same factory Mother used.

Emails and calls to L.L. Bean seeking comment went unreturned.

Grabijas notes that he has heard from other retailers, ones very loyal to Mother and its quality, that there are other companies now showing product that is very much like his too.

"We have developed a product line and an identity that has resonated with the hunting community," said Grabijas. "We have every intention of vigorously protecting those ideas and that identity."

SNEWS® View: This is the kind of stuff we HATE to hear. Whatever happened to original ideas being recognized as such? Oh, yeah, we forgot -- that's been replaced by a tacitly accepted rush to create the next copy of an original with precious few design changes and numerous corners cut to lower costs in a stupid attempt to garner more distribution dollars for company X and Y. One retailer who will not be named, upon seeing a Mother knock-off, stated, "I was amazed that a company could fail so miserably at a knock-off. It was obvious that the management in this company never hunted and that they needed to go back to the drawing board."

It's too bad that Grabijas, or any company, large or small, for that matter, has to take on competitors in court to protect a design that, for all the right reasons, should remain an original one free from fear of being knocked off. It's not like the designers at competitors' companies don't have talent and original ideas of their own. Perhaps it is time for each designer at each company around the globe to look in a mirror and ask themselves -- do I really feel good using another person's design to create something my company can call its own?

Then again, perhaps in a world where folks think it is OK to download music, art and literature someone else has created and owns for free, this is what we get. And that's just sad.

>> What are your views and thoughts on knock-offs, product copying and the stealing of ideas? Let us know by going to the SNEWS® Chat Threads with ongoing discussions. Click here to post your views and to read what others have said.

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