An Open Letter to the Community
Dear Polarstar fans, ZShot Inc., Odin Innovations, and the airsoft community:
In light of recent events, we would like to express our most sincere support to Odin Innovations, and their curator ZShot Inc. for standing up and defending their invention. As an innovator and worldwide leader in HPA technology, we’ve had our own run-ins with imitations, knock offs, and outright patent infringement as well. Knowing how much anger and hardship they must have endured, we wholeheartedly applaud their courage to make a stand.
Furthermore, we are very proud of the community who unanimously stood up behind ZShot and Odin. You’ve all done the right thing – there is nowhere else on earth you will find another company that loves the sport more than ZShot. Their selfless support of the community has earned your respect, and they deserve every bit of it.
That said, we also felt compelled, as small business owners, to share with you the one challenge we face constantly when going up against large companies who do not play by the rules: how broken the U.S. judicial system is, and how worthless patent protection has become. It is no secret that a patent can only protect you up to the amount of funds you can afford to defend it, and as ZShot has indicated in their open letter, unless we put forth millions of dollars of funds, resources, and most importantly hundreds of hours of time, there is no winning against the hordes of attorneys a multi-million-dollar corporation can throw at you. And unfortunately, in the eye of the law, whether you are right-or-wrong is solely determined by who survives in court. In this regard, no matter how much intellectual property protection ZShot or Odin has obtained, they became worthless the moment a significantly wealthier opponent appears. That unfairness is, sadly, the cold hard truth.
Long story short, our legal system clearly favors the rich, not protecting the righteous. It is beyond broken.
It is also on this subject that I cannot understand why legality is so frequently bought up in “buy/not-buy” debates. Comments insinuating knock offs in Europe is OK to buy because “Odin did not file for European patent protection”, is simply self-serving. Let’s face it: lack of legal repercussion should never be a justification to do wrong. Patented or not, stealing someone’s idea is still stealing. If a poor inventor who cannot afford a patent “deserves” to be ripped off (yes, the word “deserve” has been used by nay-sayers), then I am sorry American innovation is dead.
In addition, there is another issue we wanted to address: condemning the accused is not, and will rarely ever be, constructive. Yes public outcry is important. It sends a strong message. However, jumping on the bandwagon so we can go on a bashing spree will only go so far. To be truly effective as a community, we must collectively demonstrate our willingness to not only boycott the knock-off company, but that we are absolutely willing to pay more to support a company that has earned our loyalty. On top of it, not only should we go buy the genuine product (which we are sure a lot of you have already done), but we must share our acts publicly, to show the copy-cat we are putting our money where our mouth is. If lead-by-example is followed up by visibility, that visibility will cause more to act. This is the true power of you, the community, that can protect innovation. So that good companies can continue pushing the envelope and make our sport more enjoyable. So that small businesses like Odin Innovations can keep making our lives better. Remember, these big companies are not afraid of your words and threats posted online. They’ve seen it plenty. But they will be afraid when they see their income going away, by your action. So don’t stay silent; go do it and vote with your wallet. Afterwards, tell the world proudly what you did. If we can turn every “hate post” into one that reads “look I just bought a real Odin loader”, we can change this into a much more positive movement.
The bottom line? Act to support the companies who give back and truly care about your sport. It’s really not that hard to tell what companies these are… just listen to what people have to say about ZShot. Companies who care will naturally innovate and bring you better products, because they pay attention to you, they play in the same field with you, and make the things you love better. In contrast, companies who only run after hot product by ripping it off and undercutting the original, may feel like your friend initially… because, hey, who doesn’t like a better price, but be careful what you ask for. Manufacturing or importing a knockoff is basically lowering the bar for both price and quality, which forces legitimate innovators to compete by either reducing margins to the point that they can't sustain themselves or designing products based on cost rather than quality. Either way you end up with a market full of cheap, rehashed products with little to no innovation or improvement. But hey, they sure are cheap right?