Breaking: 1989 “Prior Art” Example Pertinent to Mossberg Drop-In Trigger Lawsuits

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As we covered a few days ago, Mossberg purchased the patent held by CMC Triggers protecting the idea of a self-contained, drop-in fire control group that uses the factory trigger pin and hammer pin and has begun suing manufacturers of drop-in AR-15 triggers for infringement. At the NRA Annual Meetings I spoke with a few manufacturers who insisted that there was significant “prior art” well before CMC’s patent, meaning that triggers operating in this manner had existed for many years already. To use this as a defense they have to prove it’s actually true. Well, here’s the very best example I’ve seen so far . . .

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These photos are from a book called The Ruger 1022 Exotic Weapons System, published in 1989, and the relevant text is as follows (bold added by me):

To convert the original closed-bolt, hammer-fired design of the 1022 rifle to an open-bolt system, a new trigger mechanism must be incorporated. In considering the conversion, the main priority became simplicity of manufacture and no modification of the receiver or the trigger housing. Able to meet these requirements is our super-compact trigger mechanism, which is assembled as one unit and which can be installed or removed in a matter of seconds after the gun is stripped. The selective-fire converter is a “drop-in” type neatly assembled in one compact subgroup consisting of the sear and trigger assembly… a small rectangular-shaped sheet metal housing contains the entire trigger group in a single compact unit. This unit is easily hand formed using improvised dies. This arrangement allows the converter unit to be inserted as a pack inside the original trigger housing plate once all the trigger components have been removed…the converter unit is inserted inside the frame and is secured in place by the original trigger and ejector pin…”

This is as close to exactly describing the CMC trigger as I have seen so far. Not only is it a stamped sheetmetal housing, but it re-uses the factory pins, which is the crux of the CMC-now-Mossberg patent. Will examples such as this undercut Mossberg’s position in their suits against other drop-in trigger makers? Watch this space.

EDIT: This patent is even closer, as it includes hollow bushings through which the receiver pins pass, and FCG parts pivot on those bushings.

comments

  1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Hmmm. Select fire too. Too bad it’s from an open bolt. I always liked the Norrells. I’m still looking for one.

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      Open bolt is generally prefered for full auto weapons. Better cooling and less risk of cook off as I recall.

      1. avatar kenneth says:

        But open bolt is NOT for rimfires. Remember, that bolt will have to pick up that round and feed it into the chamber. If it’s an open bolt, that means the fixed firing pin will be pushing on the round, on the RIM(where the priming compound is!)! That’s a recipe for rounds firing out of battery, which is a recipe for disaster as in the round detonates as the bolt is half open, negating any safety features the firearm might have, and meaning explosions in the firer’s face.

        1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

          Open bolt is not the same as fixed firing pin. There are guns made with a striker setup that are open bolt.

        2. avatar kenneth says:

          Andrew:
          I think you should post some citations for this claim. I’ve been a gunsmith for many decades and have not heard of such a thing. I can’t see how it is possible. What fires the round, if it is open bolt without some system to create a fixed firing pin, at least temporarily?
          An open bolt gun uses the trigger to drop the bolt and it fires as soon as the bolt closes. Usually, in a select fire arm, the firing pin is struck by the hammer(or striker, if it is of that type), which is held by a sear when in semiauto mode, and is tripped by some type of auto sear when in full auto mode. These always fire from a closed bolt, even in full auto, as the auto sear trips when the bolt closes. There have been firearms made that use the open bolt system in full auto mode, and the closed bolt system in semi mode, like the FG-42. But these still fire from a locked bolt in semi mode, and turn into a fixed firing pin in open bolt, full auto mode.
          But none of this is applicable to a conversion of a 10/22 because they are of the straight blowback type, with no locking of the bolt in any case.
          For more info see this excellent video on the FG42 from Ian at forgotten weapons here:

        3. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

          Pardon me Kenneth, but if you’re really a gunsmith you should read up on your trade quite a lot more… I googled it for you and the M1 Thompson SMG had a floating firing pin and hammer.

        4. avatar kenneth says:

          Eric:
          Although a floating firing pin could be made to work, using the inertia of the pin itself to fire as the bolt stops travel, I fail to see any practical use for doing so. The designers of the M1 must have thought so also, as this was abandoned in favor of a simple fixed firing pin in the next version.
          In any case, this is still NOT relevant to a rimfire, as they fire on the RIM and not the center of the case. This changes things greatly, as you should know.
          I would still like to know to which firearm the original poster was referring, because that is what I asked for knowledge of, not just for some random google search. And if you desire to actually help understanding, as opposed to hindering, in future please keep the veiled insults to yourself. They help nothing, and only make you seem to be an internet troll.

        5. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

          I meant no ‘veiled’ insults, I specifically meant that you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about on this easily-researched point and that thus your credentials are most likely not as good as you claim.

        6. avatar kenneth says:

          And you’re trying to claim that this helped understanding? In what way exactly?

        7. avatar Paladin says:

          Open bolt does not mean that the firearm necessarily uses a fixed firing pin. Open bolt simply means that the bolt is held open until the trigger is pulled. While fixed firing pins are common (particularly in open bolt SMGs) they are not the only way to make an open bolt firearm. In fact, a fixed firing pin could be a liability in a locked breach open bolt firearm since it might strike the primer before the breach is locked. In such a case a floating firing pin and a hammer or striker would be desirable.

          If you were half as well informed about your trade as you claim to be you would know this.

        8. avatar kenneth says:

          Paladin:
          If I seem short with you, its only because I am growing awfully tired of this gibberish. Mostly by others, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that no one that I actually question ever answers, its always someone else, and always off topic.
          So, can you explain, logically and reasonably, what exactly you believe a “locked breach open bolt firearm” IS?
          No need for technical terms you heard somewhere, or large words that might sound important even if used wrongly. Simply describe its operation, and how it can be both open bolt and locked breech simultaniously.
          Or is that simply too much to ask, that you are aware of the meaning of a term you just used?

  2. avatar Big Jim says:

    There’s only so many ways to make a trigger assembly If the fire control group Is a drop in I don’t see How Mossberg Can sue for this?? Not too sure if that will stand up in court But I’m not an attorney Nor do I play one on TV. Just seems like going after a lot of small companies Is a bad idea when you’re a family-owned business yourself and I’m a big Mossberg fan it’s the only shotgun to shoot.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      They do own the patent on it. A patent that was officially granted and, apparently, held up to a subsequent review. The question now is if it will hold up to the pending legal challenge as a part of these suits, if indeed this prior art info is sufficient to show that it wasn’t actually invented by the party who submitted the patent but, in actuality, already existed. As I’m not a patent lawyer (or any sort of lawyer), I can’t actually say how much it matters anyway. Does the fact that an idea existed and was sold for decades prior to you getting a patent on it matter? Does that invalidate the patent, or do you get to enforce it regardless since it’s not about who invents it first, but about who patents it first? Are only products designed after the patent was granted subject to it, and products that already existed prior to the patent get to keep on keepin’ on? No real idea. These are obviously important distinctions, though…

      1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

        No lawyer either, but I studied patent law briefly as part of a software engineering degree. Prior art can invalidate a patent if it’s commonly known and/or a standard practice. So if it’s an obscure item with no adoption it may in fact become a matter of who patents first. This is how lawyers buy their Mercedes. 😛

      2. avatar ARluv says:

        Having been involved in several patent law suits in the gun industry and out, I can tell you that prior art is truly the only way that the companies named in the lawsuit can have a chance at winning. The problem is that a product that has already been granted a patent, has already been subject to a very high level of scrutiny prior to receiving its patented status, and in order to invalidate that status the bar is extraordinarily high. Is this the photo that can help that? Maybe…but it’s never a done deal in these cases.

        1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          This is a good example, but I’ve now seen Taiwanese rifles and American shotguns and other examples as well. I’m not sure any of them specifically address the hollow bearing thing well enough to truly be rock solid prior art, but they’re getting dang close.

          Of course, legal fees can be massive and if I were a trigger manufacturer and Mossy wanted like $1.50 per trigger as a royalty, I’d probably be inclined to just pay it. But I have no idea what they have asked or intend to ask.

  3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Looks to me like Mr. McCormick may have sold that patent just in time … especially since it appears to be totally worthless. Too bad for Mossberg for apparently paying big $ for a patent that apparently cannot be enforced.

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      So McCormick “invented” not the drop in trigger cart AND he founded CMC what is the rest of the story? He still own CMC?

      If so, some Hillary style lack of disclosure/conflict of interest being left out of the story. Using the gov’t to limit your competition rather than competing is so modern demtard.

      1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

        It’s not perfect, but the patent system is neither modern nor ‘demtard’. It’s a powerful driver of innovation.

        Bringing it back to guns, Sam Colt patented the revolver so that for years he was the only revolver game in town.

      2. avatar WRH says:

        If you worked for years to design and build a new product, wouldn’t you want protection from some big company that can reverse-engineer your design and sell it cheaper because they have the manufacturing capabilities?

        1. avatar 16V says:

          WRH, You’ve never held a patent, have you?

          Dean Kamen himself will tell you that you are certain to get taken on your first, and likely your second. Precisely because big companies with waayyyyyy more money than you, can just outspend you.

          Read the abstracts, read the claim of novelty. Neither hold water in light of known prior art, but this was a shoddy patent granted when the USPTO just said “granted” to almost anything. This is a battle of attrition, nothing more.

      3. avatar Nick says:

        Per a comment posted by CMC Triggers on Facebook, I understand that this is the order of events:
        1. CMC trigger is developed
        2. Patent is applied for*
        3. CMC trigger department is sold by Chip McCormick to the designer of the trigger.
        4. Patent is granted to Chip McCormick
        5. Patent is sold to Mossberg
        6. CMC Triggers (no longer owned by Chip McCormick) licenses patent from Mossberg.

        *I’m unsure of the order between 2 and 3

  4. avatar FedUp says:

    If you don’t go to court to protect your patent, you can lose the rights to it.
    If you do go to court to protect your patent and the court invalidates your patent, you lose the revenues from the licensees who were paying you royalties on the patent.

    1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      Not true, you can selectively enforce a *patent* all you want. It’s trademark you’re thinking of.

  5. avatar Ken says:

    To me, it looks like a greedy opportunist taking advantage. I no longer have an interest in buying the Mossberg I was considering.

    1. avatar PW in KY says:

      That’s EXACTLY how I view it. It’s not like Mossberg invented the drop in trigger. They just bought the rights to something hoping to make a few bucks.

      Screw you Mossberg, I never really wanted any of your guns anyway but this seals the deal.

      1. avatar kenneth says:

        Good for you. Mossberf, like remington and AAR before them, have been destroyed by the cerberus group, the holder of ‘the freedom group’. What more can one expect from a company owned by George Soros, second only to bloomberg as an antigunner?

  6. avatar Munn says:

    OUCH. Mossberg is going to regret buying that patent.

  7. avatar Oye says:

    Eh, drawings/photos don’t really help you.

    You need to look at the patent claims. People amend the claims to get around any existing prior art but still get a patentable invention.

    The trick is seeing if the claims (amended to get around the prior art) cover the products of the alleged infringers.

    It’s very common to claim you have a very broad patent (say covering “all drop in triggers”) only to find out the claims were amended tons and only cover a very narrow subset (left-handed drop in triggers with X, Y, Z).

    (More interestingly, if CMC triggers new about this prior art, but “forgot” to mention it to the USPTO, the patent could be invalidated regardless of what the patent covers.)

  8. avatar Uncle Bob says:

    I am not sure that a book published in Canada by a questionable publisher in very low numbers impacts the Mossberg patent.
    1) were any of the illegal trigger groups actually made,
    2) if do, did they work,
    3) if so, do they have the same pin design claimed in the patent?

    Remember, the patent doesn’t class m to apply to all drop in trigger groups.

    1. avatar Gary213 says:

      Looks like the book was published in Colorado, might just be available in Canada, not sure. But, it is clearly in the public domain.

      Most prior art affects validity of patenting something. The patent process is intended to teach something new, a novel step, and then the person who patents it has the right to defend it.

      If it was already taught, no matter whether it was used or not, then patenting it is not teaching anything novel.

      If it is implicit in another art, then it is also not novel. Saying something was done in another platform and then claiming uniqueness for applying it to your platform is not unique.

  9. avatar Stinkeye says:

    Does this trigger pack use the “pin-within-a-pin” design that seems to be the crux of the patent? If not, then it’s probably not relevant. It’s not 100% clear from those photos and that description, but it looks like maybe the original 10/22 pins only hold the housing in place, and don’t go through pivot pins inside the housing. If that’s the case, this wouldn’t be prior art as it applies to the McCormick patent.

    Also, for unpatented “prior art” to invalidate a patent, I think it has to be shown to be more or less common knowledge or at least something the patent holder should reasonably have known about. An obscure Canadian book that maybe had a couple hundred copies made fifteen years before the patent application likely doesn’t meet that standard, even if the design does replicate the patent’s claims.

    1. avatar Chris in SC says:

      This trigger pack does not use a “pin within a pin” system. I got my mom to order that book for me more than 25 years ago (I’m actually looking at the image from the article on p. 23 right now). Some of these kits were definitely made because I fired an MG built to this design at a dealer’s private range – that’s what led to me literally begging my mom to buy the two 10/22 full-auto conversion books from Paladin Press. Imagine my surprise when I read all of the “you can’t actually do this conversion anymore” notices (I was probably 11 or 12 then).

      This definitely isn’t the most common of the select fire 10/22 designs. There’s a book called “Select Fire 10/22” by Wayne Thornbrugh (also on my desk) that details a conversion that has the throw-lever selector like the Norrell system. Most ranges I’ve been to that have full-auto rentals have had a 10/22 with either the lever selector or that god-awful giant paddle through the safety. It’s nice to see what 1,800+ rpm looks and sounds like every now and again.

  10. avatar Warren says:

    I think people are still missing the crux of the lawsuit’s basis, that being that Mossberg is suing not for companies making drop in triggers, but making drop in triggers HELD IN PLACE WITH HAMMER/TRIGGER PINS. Specifically, the usage of hollow pins for the trigger cassette, in which the standard hammer and trigger pins are repurposed for holding the cassette in place. This example of “prior art,” and the Taiwanese T86 drop in trigger, don’t utilize trigger pins to hold the cassette. I don’t think Mossberg necessarily has a clear-cut case, but I think there IS enough of a case that it should be determined in court.

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      Listen to Warren, guys. He gets it. The patent is for a very specific implementation of a drop-in trigger. While I think it’s a really dumb business move for Mossberg to burn up tons of customer goodwill to recoup a few bucks on aftermarket AR-15 triggers, so far, nobody has demonstrated any prior art that definitively replicates the patented features.

    2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      This 10/22 design does re-purpose the factory pins to hold the pack in place. I don’t know if there are hollow bushings inside the pack through which the factory pins go, though, and if there are whether or not any of the FGC internals rotate on those bushings.

      I do think, in the case of an AR, the hollow bushing thing is the obvious solution and that it would be significantly more difficult to engineer and invent a drop-in trigger that didn’t allow the factory pins to pass through the housing in that manner, but I’m not sure you can prove that and I’m not sure it matters. Obviously the USPTO already found the design to be novel. And it’s especially hard to argue it isn’t novel if no prior art with hollow bushings through which the pins pass exists.

      1. avatar PPGMD says:

        What is obvious after the product has been on the market for almost the decade isn’t the same as being obvious before the first product using this design hit the market.

        The idea of using a a box that contains a ball bearing that is attached to four movement sensors to move a cursor around a screen is pretty obvious now, but 50 years ago that idea would be revolutionary.

        So it will be up to the court, and the expert witnesses that decide if the idea of using bearings is obvious in 2002 when this whole process started.

        1. avatar 16V says:

          As someone who has been denied a few patents back when the USPTO actually examined them for conflicts with “prior art”, let me help.

          Using the metric of “prior art” there’s a bunch of examples that will kill their “novelty” in a heartbeat.

          Once again, read the abstracts. Hopefully the industry shuts down this patent troll.

  11. avatar RetMSgt in Pa. says:

    I’m not a firearms expert, but what about the trigger assembly for an M-14/M-1A? For disassembly, the whole trigger package is removed, separate from the rest of the rifle. Although it inserts from below, how would it be considered different from a “drop-in” trigger?

    1. avatar PPGMD says:

      Doesn’t apply because the M-14/M1 trigger housing the designed to drop in and out and has a dedicated method for attaching to the receiver.

      This patent likely only applies to AR type weapons because it used the stock trigger and hammer pins to index and attach the module to the receiver. While the hammer and trigger rotate around a hollow bushing, which keeps them in place even with no pins in the trigger module.

  12. avatar ButtHurtz says:

    Mossberg is going to lose big-time.

    Even if they win the case, the customer ill-will will cost them more.

  13. avatar Jarred says:

    Are they patenting a bushing?

    1. avatar PPGMD says:

      No they patented the idea of using a modular trigger housing that literally drops into AR-15s, using the trigger and hammer pins for indexing and securing the trigger module to the receiver. It stays completely self contained because the trigger and hammer rotate around a hollow bushing where the stock trigger and hammer pins insert through.

      It is a very specific patent that likely doesn’t apply to any other gun. As most previous modular triggers used dedicated holes/slots for attaching to the receiver.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        The shotgun trigger patent that I linked earlier today in the “EDIT” at the bottom of the post employs hollow bushings through which the receiver pins pass to retain the housing inside the receiver, and FCG parts do pivot on those bushings.

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