Magpul Files Patent Infringement Suits Against ProMag, Others

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Some say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Others call it patent infringement. Magpul Industries seems to be in the latter category, as they just filed a lawsuit against ProMag Industries and a handful of other mag makers for infringing on some of their AR-15 magazine patents. In their press release (full text below), Magpul states that they filed the lawsuit to protect their patent for their plastic fantastics, presumably trying to crack down on some of the fake Magpul products that have been making their way onto the market recently. On a personal level, I’ve been fooled by a Magpul impersonator offering some backup iron sights for a “too good to miss” price. Whether this will put the fear of God into the hearts of counterfeiters is yet to be seen . . .

BOULDER, Colorado — July 25, 2013

Magpul Industries Corp announced today that it has filed patent infringement lawsuits against four companies for offering for sale, selling, and distributing magazines for AR15/M16 compatible weapons in violation of Magpul’s patents. The company’s lawsuits allege infringement of Utility Pat. No. 8,069,601 for a novel ammunition magazine, in addition to numerous Magpul design patents.

The lawsuits, filed in United States District Court, Colorado, provide another example of Magpul’s dedication to protecting its valuable brand while sending a warning to others attempting to infringe on our innovations. “These patents exemplify the industrial design-focused spirit at Magpul, which drives us to create novel solutions that enhance user experience with our products,” said Duane Liptak, Director of Product Management and Marketing for Magpul Industries. “People who use Magpul products have high expectations and a great deal of trust regarding the value, quality, and amount of thought put into every design we release. As such, we cannot allow others to misappropriate the patented technology that helps us generate that consumer confidence and trust.”

The lawsuits are the largest and most significant to date brought by Magpul, and are part of the company’s ongoing proactive efforts to combat the unlawful production, distribution, and sale of products that infringe on its valuable intellectual property rights.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

71 Responses to Magpul Files Patent Infringement Suits Against ProMag, Others

  1. avatarJohn Boch says:

    Who else besides Promag?

  2. avatarScott P says:

    Good.

    ProMag products suck anyway. I have never been satisfied with any of their products. Cheap garbage is what they are.

    I will mirror roughly what someone said about them on a gun forum and that is they are the greatest training magazines one can buy with guaranteed malfunctions so you can learn how to clear them.

    • avatarHenry Bowman says:

      If ProMags suck… don’t buy them. Making superior products and reaping the economic rewards is what drives the free market… not calling for the violent destruction of competing businesses.

      • avatarthingi says:

        Bingo.

        • avatarArdent says:

          Henry, I didn’t see anyone call for the ‘violent destruction of competing businesses’. It seems that Scott was applauding the application of fairness in business by wishing to see a copyright infringer held accountable. Did I miss something?

        • avatarHenry Bowman says:

          Ardent,
          How would a patent lawsuit victory be enforced? By government court order. And, if they refuse to pay? By the violent seizure of private property by government agents.
          Asking for government to intervene on your behalf is asking for violence to be done against others.

        • avatarCA.Ben says:

          So Henry, you would be okay with abolishing the patent system? Intellectual property should just be contributed to the common good, with anybody and everybody using your mind for their benefit?

          That sounds terrible.

      • avatarHenry Bowman says:

        To be clear, I wasn’t saying that as though Scott P was calling for the destruction of competition. I was saying that’s what Magpul is doing.

      • avatarJonathan - Houston says:

        It’s all a matter of the timing, though, Bowman. I’m neither an engineer nor a patent lawyer, so I can’t comment on the validity of the suit filed. However, the underlying issue is that Magpul has developed intellectual property in the form of various patents and, allegedly, another entity is violating those patents; essentially effecting a theft of that property. If true, then that is the initial illegal act. Whether the other firm(s) obtained that property by threat of force themselves or by reverse engineering, is irrelevant. That the other firm(s) proceeded to enrich themselves at Magpul’s expense by using that property illegally is the issue.

        Preserving property rights by protecting them from infringement is crucial to the function of the free market. It’s even codified in the Constitution. Absent state sanctioned action, including use of legal force, economic activity and technological advance become stunted.

        Now, the use of government force you’re describing would more appropriately describe Magpul, or any other existing firm, using the levers of government to prevent Promag or any other upstart from entering the market at all, even using their own designs and property. That’s an entirely different scenario. This case is about Magpul denying others the use of Magpul’s property. The hypothetical more suited to the objection you raise would be about Magpul denying others the right to use of those others’ property.

        Really, I don’t call 911 when my neighbor comes home with new vehicle legally purchased from the local dealership. I would call 911 if he sought to abscond with my vehicle. See the difference? To your other point, the quality of Promag’s product is also irrelevant. It would be like arguing against the quality of my neighbor’s driving using the vehicle he had stolen from me. Should he expect me not to support a delivery or taxi service he’s conducting using the vehicle he stole from me? Yes, yes he should. He should also expect a measured use or threat of use of lawful force to come his way as well.

      • avatarWilliam Burke says:

        I have serious reservations about free market philosophy, but trying to drive competitors out of business is, to me, far worse.

        Magpul just played their “sleazy” card.

  3. avatarstitch1870 says:

    John, I’d imagine Troy Ind and Tapco are filed in the suit can’t think of anyone else who makes poly mags that actually sell.

  4. avatarPro-Liberty says:

    First of all, nobody (except maybe Nick Leghorn) calls patent infringement “copyright infringement.” Patents and copyrights are very different things, though both amount to a grant of monopoly by government that violates property rights, harms consumers, and stifles innovation. See Kinsella, Stephan. “Against Intellectual Property.”

    If you care about your right to do what you want with your own stuff, you should oppose the concept of property rights in non-rivalrous things like ideas.

    And to be clear, if someone misrepresents a product and says “Magpul made this,” and you rely on that misrepresentation in making the purchase, the issue is fraud, not some silly patent claim.

    • avatarutdmatt says:

      You also have to take into account something very important. It is settled patent and copyright law that if you neglect to defend your patent when you learn that someone is clearly infringing on it, you lose the ability to keep it. Pretty much any future actions you take to defend it will have a high chance of failing and being rendered moot by the judge.

    • avatarWilliam Burke says:

      Agreed. Interesting that “agreed” contains the word “greed”, eh?

  5. avatarBastiat says:

    Crybabies. Are you really afraid of POS Pro Mags crowding you out? How about you spend that lawyer money on some more injection molding machines and make enough PMAGs to meet demand for once. The only reason why people bought non-Magpuls during Firearmageddon was because stupid Magpul failed to supply enough of their product.

    • avatarJoe says:

      I don’t know where you live but my LGS has two boxes of p mags he is trying to sell, 11 bucks each non window 13 for windowed

      • avatarArdent says:

        Sort of the same thing here Joe, not only does the LGS have all the Pmags you want for $15.00 each but every flea market and swap meet has them even cheaper. Seems there are a few people who lost it and bought cases of them during the panic who now wonder why they needed 200 magazines.

      • avatarWilliam Burke says:

        What is your point? I thought the market was supposed to decide such things.

    • avatarGrumpy in Kali says:

      Yeah….they’re not meeting demand.

      SG Ammo only has 1,400 Magpul 30 rounders in stock this morning (not counting EMAGS). So yeah…they’re definitely not meeting demand.

      • avatarTaurus609 says:

        I’ve been waiting since December for four (4) flat dark earth Pmags, 2 w/windows, 2 w/out from Midway. Have seen plenty of black Pmags though.

        • avatarWilliam Burke says:

          This must be where I point out that “flat dark earth” is not dark at all. What does “flat light earth” look like, snow?

        • avatarTaurus609 says:

          W.B. only describing the official name, so contact Magpul or whomever and ask them!

  6. avatarDavid Trest says:

    I’ve never liked Magpul since their LEO scandal (and extremely poor handling of the fallout), but this just furthers my dislike. They’re becoming patent trolls now. Here’s the abstract of the patent filed:

    “The present invention is an ammunition magazine, preferably made of a glass fiber reinforced polymer, utilizing a structurally enhancing ridge, angular guide rails and a follower made to interface with said guide rails to reduce wobble. The preferred embodiment also features a protective cover that distributes forces from the spring to more structurally sound areas of the magazine, thus reducing feed end splay, and an ammunition indication system comprised of at least one window and a noticeable marker on the follower spring. The follower and magazine casing are also designed to interface to prevent the follower from popping out of the feed end and the floor plate of the magazine utilizes a locking plate and sliding relationship between the floor plate, locking plate and magazine to secure the floor plate onto the magazine casing. The cover features built in tools for, among other things, unloading and disassembling the magazine.”

    So basically ANY polymer magazine infringes. Way to lock out competition.

    • avatarSAS 2008 says:

      David, you posted the abstract for the patent and claim that means any plastic mag is covered. That is not how patents applications work. You need to evaluate the claims in the patent and decide if they are unique enough in design to warrant a patent.

      In general I support intellectual property rights but one problem with the patent system is that much of our technology and design has advanced enough that there is not adequate knowlegde in the patent office to evaluate the claims made for many patents.

      I have thought a peer review process might help but that opens up all sorts of other problems. The US government looked into the peer review process a few years ago but I didn’t keep track of the results or how effective it was. Apparently they came up with this process: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer-to-Patent

      When I read one of Magpul’s patents at http://www.google.com/patents/US8069601 I don’t have enough knowledge of other products or the time to evaluate wheter the patent should be granted or not. I doubt the patent office can make that decision either.

      So while I support the idea of intellectual property rights I don’t have a solution for the broken system.

    • avatarJulian says:

      I’ve never liked Magpul since their LEO scandal (and extremely poor handling of the fallout)

      What did I miss? What LEO scandal?

      • avatarLoyd says:

        Back in January or so, when a bunch of companies were announcing boycotts on sales to LEOs in states with unfriendly gun laws, it was pointed out that Magpul has always a LEO/Mil/Gov sales office. People nutted up over this, saying that Magpul was in bed with “police-state industrial complex” and such. People were calling for boycotts of Magpul before Magpul announced it was changing the way it handles LEO sales (literally 36 hours between the time the controversy broke and Magpul’s response). It was the biggest non-controversy on the Great Gun Control Panic of 2013.

        • avatarWilliam Burke says:

          You can call it a “non-controversy”; that’s your right. But you are wrong.

    • avatarperlhaqr says:

      So basically ANY polymer magazine infringes.

      No.

      The patent covers the guide grooves in the magazine body and the matching guide rails in the magazine follower. The use of a polymer to manufacture the magazine is incidental to the infringement. It’d be just as much of an infringement if the magazines were stamped metal.

      The patent also covers the addition of a window into the magazine body to show remaining load levels (which I probably would have argued as prior art based on the AR-7 mag, but maybe the novel part there is the dust exclusion of the actual window) and the top cover that locks onto the locking lugs and keeps the ammo from pushing against the feed lips while the magazine is loaded. There’s also a claim to an invention about the guide rails acting as a stop tab to keep the follower from coming out the top of the magazine body.

      Now, I’m not a patent lawyer, or adequately versed in the entire history of ammunition magazines to say if all of these are actual novel inventions or not, but they certainly aren’t claiming proprietorship over the entire domain of plastic magazines.

      Read the patent here, if you like: http://www.pat2pdf.org/patents/pat8069601.pdf

  7. avatarBWG says:

    I was about to say – how does one claim ownership of a plastic magazine.

    Does Colt sue other companies for making metal magazines?

    Does Armalite sue every other maker of the AR-15 platform style rifle for patent infringement?

    As long as the Magpul name is not stamped on a non-Magpul magazine, Magpul needs to piss off.

    Let this mark a point in time where Magpul goes “corporate” and forgets its roots.

    Shameful.

    • avatarHasdrubal says:

      Pretty sure the patents on the AR-15 design and the original mags has long since run out. They’re good for what, 25 years? I would think that if a company had wanted to make AR-15s in 1970, they would have to get a contract and pay royalties. Now it’s legally fair game.

  8. avatarHenry Bowman says:

    So, Magpul is now the Apple (post-Steve Jobs) of the gun industry.

    There’s nothing like calling on the violence of government to stifle innovation, competition, private property, and economic freedom.

    • avatarAndy says:

      Why POST- Steve Jobs… They behaved the same way while he was still alive… admittedly, more innovation to with the litigation, but still…

      • avatarHenry Bowman says:

        True. It just seems to be the only play in their playbook these days.

      • avatarWilliam Burke says:

        In my opinion, IBM DID steal Apple’s GUI. I think they presented a somewhat weak case for it, but it was stolen just the same.

  9. avatarBWG says:

    I wonder when Bridgestone is going to start suing anyone who makes a round object made of rubber and call it a “tire”?

  10. avatarChuckN says:

    For me, it depends on specifically what MagPul is claiming infringement
    of. If it’s polymer formula for the mags then the claim has a bit more
    legitimacy. If they are claiming infringement of overall design, then
    screw them. There are only so many ways to design a poly mag for ARs.
    It comes down to quality and availability. If MagPul can’t keep up with
    demand and maintain quality, then no lawsuit will save them.

  11. avatarKvjavs says:

    Normally I hate it when companies cry about patent infringement, like Apple…

    But in this case, I can understand. ProMag is selling an inferior product with a similar name and it looks similar to the PMAG.

    I hope they get what’s coming to them.

  12. avatarCharles5 says:

    I like Magpul’s stuff (well most of it…there backup plastic “iron sights” are straight up crap). However, I do not like what they are doing here. I can understand them going after a company for selling products as “Magpul” when they are not in fact Magpul products. However, going after other manufacturers because there are similarities in their magazines? Lawsuits have gotten completely out of hand in this country.

    • avatarHasdrubal says:

      This is the difference between patent and copyright as mentioned farther up the page. They are not going after companies selling knockoff products labeled as Magpul, they are going after companies selling products with their own brand labels but build with features Magpul patented.

      • avatarPro-Liberty says:

        FWIW, that would be a trademark enforcement issue if Magpul was to pursue it. (It is fraud if brought by the consumer who was deceived by false branding.)

  13. avatarP51 says:

    Well I guess that Thermold should sue Magpul?

  14. avatarJT says:

    The four companies Magpul is suing are Big Rock Sports/Swampfox, Cole Industries, Plinker Tactical and Promag.

    From the images I have been able to find of the “offending” magazines, this will likely be about several of the design features. Namely the dust cover/feed lip protector, floor plate, and how the follower interacts with the magazine body. The magazines from the companies being sued all have at least one of those features that magpul has listed in the patent.

    Here is the complaint against promag. It seems the gripping ridges are in play with them as well.
    http://news.priorsmart.com/magpul-industries-v-brookshire-tool-and-mfg-company-inc-dba-promag-industries-l8NW/

  15. avatarRab says:

    I am disgusted at the cries that Magpul has no right to protect their property. THEY spent the money to design it. THEY figured out how to manufacture it. THEY have the right to protect all their rights, and so does Apple. Anything less it letting others steal from them.

    GO MAGPUL

    • avatarkcr says:

      +1. Choosing not to enforce your patent = loss of IP. Patent holders don’t have the right, they also have the duty to seek enforcement of their patents.

      I see this as a separate issue from Apple, Samsung, and the electronics industry in general. Magpul developed a superior product, got some patents, and are protecting their investment in R&D.

      I would expect any reasonable business to do the same in Magpul’s situation.

    • avatarPro-Liberty says:

      No one has any legitimate right to tell me that I can’t configure my own property in whatever way I see fit. Ideas are not properly considered property because they are non-rivalrous, i.e., I can take your idea but you still have it after I take it. As Thomas Jefferson correctly explained about patents:

      “He who receives ideas from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation”

      • avatarpcrh says:

        “No one has any legitimate right to tell me that I can’t configure my own property in whatever way I see fit.”

        What about Article 1, section 8, clause 8 of the US Constitution: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

        “Ideas are not properly considered property because they are non-rivalrous, i.e., I can take your idea but you still have it after I take it.”

        That is true, but you did not have to spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours inventing and designing Magpul’s invention. You are ignoring the “Free Rider” problem–it is much cheaper to just copy someone else’s work than it is to invent something new and useful yourself. Without patent protection of some kind, inventors (and/or the employers who fund their work) would be less likely to recoup the expense of creating new and useful products. Why? Because after spending 2 years in R&D and paying a team of engineers to come up with the improvement, their competitor could simply copy the invention with zero investment. That is a recipe to drive innovators out of the marketplace.

        The US patent system is not perfect by any means. But to declare that patents are somehow non-competitive or stifle innovation is opposite to reality. The copiers are not innovating anything. They are copying the work of others. The copiers will be free to copy after the patent term is expired, and the inventor has had a chance to recoup his/her investment. At that time, everyone is enriched by free access to an invention that might not otherwise have been created.

        • avatarPro-Liberty says:

          “What about Article 1, section 8, clause 8 of the US Constitution…”

          Yes, there is a legal right to oppress your fellow man with enforcement of your IP monopoly grants from government. That is why I said there is “no _legitimate_ right” to do so, not “no _legal_ right” to do so.

          And no, I am not “ignoring the free-rider problem.” I am just not an ethical consequentialist like you apparently are. The fact that you have some seemingly noble justification in mind does not justify your use of evil, unjust ends. IP rights come down to you telling me that you are going to sic state thugs on me if I configure my own physical property in certain ways. That is a violation of my legitimate property rights. I should be able to configure my ink and paper, or my nuts and bolts, or my injected polymer, in any way I darn well choose, so long as I don’t violate your right to do the same.

          Furthermore, going to your consequentialist, ends-justify-the-means argument, there is no empirical evidence that patents encourage innovation. In fact, they clearly stifle it. See, e.g., http://archive.mises.org/10217/yet-another-study-finds-patents-do-not-encourage-innovation/

        • avatarpcrh says:

          “That is why I said there is “no _legitimate_ right” to do so, not “no _legal_ right” to do so.”

          Personal property rights (like intellectual property rights) are created and enforced by men with guns. You are just picking and choosing which government-created property rights you like, and calling those you don’t like “evil”. Rights to both personal property and intellectual property are created by and protected by government.

          And unless you believe in an absolute moral law, you have to be an ethical consequentialist. How else do you decide what is ethical, if not by the results of your actions? You are simply presuming intellectual “property rights” are evil. I don’t buy your economic arguments (they are demonstrably false), so what reason is there for calling intellectual property evil?

          Why not also declare personal property evil? Plenty of people believe such (I do not). What is the difference that makes intellectual property evil, but personal property dandy? Both grant the right to exclude others. Both cause economic harm if violated. What’s the reason to celebrate one and vilify the other? Because you should be able to modify your mag to be like P-mag’s? What about the guy who thinks you shouldn’t be allowed to build fences around your yard, because it keeps him from sleeping under your porch?

        • avatarpcrh says:

          “Furthermore, going to your consequentialist, ends-justify-the-means argument, there is no empirical evidence that patents encourage innovation. In fact, they clearly stifle it. See, e.g., http://archive.mises.org/10217/yet-another-study-finds-patents-do-not-encourage-innovation/

          There is no empirical evidence? It is impossible to test that idea, given we can’t go back and relive history without a patent system, to compare. So I concede the point, there is no empirical evidence, because that would be impossible without a time machine.

          Will you also then concede that there is no empirical evidence that a patent system harms innovation? By the standards you yourself have stated, I think we have to agree on that statement as well. No? Or am I the only one burdened with the duty to produce evidence?

  16. avatarIn Memphis says:

    I thought thoes fake MBUS sight were officially licensed bymagpul for airsoft weekend warriors?

    Im still waiting to see if Double Tap will sue their former partner for patent infringment. That pocket shotgun the partner made is near identical to the Double Tap.

  17. avatarmike says:

    So some think magpul should spend millions of dollars buying more equipment to supply a shortage that is likely short term. What should they do with the equipment when the shortage is over? It would be foolish for them to do that just so some person can buy their 100th mag. As far as I have seen it this area they have never been hard to find, finding them for a good price maybe.

  18. avatarRalph says:

    Magpul announced in February that it was leaving Colorado. Then why does the press release say that Magpul is located in Boulder? It simply can’t be. Magpul would never lie to us. It must be a misprint.

    • avatarIn Memphis says:

      Come on Ralph, at least give them credit for the good they have done for the people in Colorado.

      • avatarRalph says:

        Ah, the “Mussolini made the trains run on time” argument. I haven’t heard that one in years. :-)

        • avatarWilliam Burke says:

          yep, the issue is not that Mussolini made the trains run on time, but HOW he made the trains run on time!

        • avatarIn Memphis says:

          Nah, Im just bustin your balls Ralph. I actually look forward to your comments about magpul because I agree and am not as witty as though art.

    • avatarPro-Liberty says:

      Magpul is leaving Colorado. They had their first meeting with a relocation consultant in June, and they have a short list of possible future locations together that they are analyzing further. In the mean time, they still have some operations in Colorado.

    • avatarMike in NC says:

      I expect it takes more time and planning regarding financial and legal aspects to move a corporate headquarters than it does to move Magpul’s manufacturing or assembly operation. I read recently that Ruger still has about 50 people in CT even though their manufacturing is in NH, AZ and soon to be in NC.

  19. avatarstitch1870 says:

    Perhaps they are still HQ’d in Boulder for simplicity sake and just moved their manufacturing process so as to not be breaking the law.

  20. avatarJoe says:

    Ok so Magpul rips off KAC’s Micro BUIS and markets it as their own design but gets pissed when another company(ies) borrow some exsisting technology to make a similiar product? Hmmm sounds a little underhanded Magpul.

  21. avatarJoe says:

    Ok so Magpul rips off KAC’s Micro BUIS and markets it as their own design but gets pissed when another company(ies) borrow some exsisting technology to make a similiar product? Sounds a little underhanded Magpul.

  22. avatarpcrh says:

    There is a misunderstanding in the original post.

    This is a patent infringement suit, not a trademark lawsuit. The original post says, “On a personal level, I’ve been fooled by a Magpul impersonator offering some backup iron sights for a “too good to miss” price. Whether this will put the fear of God into the hearts of counterfeiters is yet to be seen . . .”

    That is a trademark issue–someone putting “Magpul” on their product (or a name that is confusingly similar) and selling it without Magpul’s permission.

    That does not appear to be what this lawsuit is about.

    Patents protect new, functional inventions. To get a patent, Magpul’s design must be different than every other design before theirs (if it’s not different, the patent office will not/should not issue a patent).

    If these companies have infringed Magpul’s patent, it is because they have built their mags using the same new, functional changes that Magpul invented and introduced. It has nothing to do with counterfeit (which, again, is misappropriating someone else’s trademark).

  23. avatarDave S says:

    would think that a court suit is better then having one company send its mercenaries to raze the competition’s plant to the ground, tho perhaps not as much fun as some would like.

  24. avatardon says:

    I recently reported a company to Magpul called Poorguy Tactical. They were selling fake UBR stocks and MBUIS(to name a few products). Long story short their lawyers contacted me asking if I’d bought anything(which I hadn’t) and Poorguy Tactical is no more. Gone off the internet. The guys running the website were stupid anyway stating in their YouTube ad for the backup sights saying that they were cosmetic looks only because you can always buy an Aimpoint T1 clone for your AR! I love Magpul products and they have been good to us here in Colorado.

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