Mossberg MVP Predator courtesy Joe Grine

The market for drop-in replacement triggers is big and growing. From the garden variety AR-15 to the venerable Remington 700, there are more replacement trigger manufacturers out there than there were Trump supporters at the NRA Annual Meeting in Louisville. The original patent on the drop-in trigger surprisingly wasn’t filed until 2007 when Michael McCormick filed patent #7,293,385, and ever since the market has continued to flourish and expand. Some trigger companies made the effort to get a license from McCormick, but others went ahead and made their products without paying a licensing fee. Recently, however, Mossberg purchased that patent from McCormick, and apparently they have started what I’m calling the triggerpocalypse by suing unlicensed manufacturer Elftmann Tactical and possibly a dozen others . . .

The lawsuit, filed May 18th, claims that Elftmann is infringing on their newly purchased patent. Elftmann makes a series of drop-in triggers that Jeremy favorably reviewed last year, precisely the triggers covered by Mossberg’s patent. The suit demands that the court force Elftmann to immediately stop production, pay Mossberg for every trigger they have ever made (plus damages), and pay Mossberg’s legal fees. EDIT: the lawsuit naming Elftmann as the defendant is the only we have seen with our own eyes thus far, but we have received confirmation from other manufacturers that they have been sued as well. Word on the street is about a dozen manufacturers have been served with a lawsuit by Mossberg, and we wouldn’t be surprised if every one of the manufacturers in Jeremy’s AR-15 Drop-In Trigger Roundup have been or will be sued.

We talked to Mossberg at the NRA convention and the following is their official statement:

Mossberg has granted fair and equitable licenses to companies for the drop-in trigger design, and will continue to extend licenses to manufacturers who express interest. As owner of these patents, it is our responsibility to protect our licensees’ rights and those of Mossberg.

Apparently part of the agreement between them and McCormick included assistance in protecting their patent (and license holders) from unlicensed competition, something McCormick couldn’t do effectively on his own. This lawsuit and others like it respresents Mossberg holding up their end of the bargain. That said, to the untrained observer it seems Mossberg is wielding an awfully big stick.

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63 Responses to Mossberg Suing Drop-In Trigger Makers for Patent Infringement

    • Yeah, that info wasn’t yet known when Nick typed this up. The list on TFB isn’t complete, either. There’s at least 12 companies being sued, including TriggerTech as I ran into them at the NRA show and they confirmed that they’re being sued as well. Basically, if they were in my AR-15 Drop-In Trigger Roundup, they’re probably already on the receiving end of a Mossberg lawsuit or will be very shortly.

      BTW obviously you’ve linked to one of TTAG’s “competitor” websites, and I feel like mentioning that you won’t find any of those sites allowing links back to us, whether in articles or in comments. TTAG has even cross-posted articles coming from other gun blogs, while the other guys have strict rules against doing that. One of the reasons I like writing for TTAG 😛

      • I’m glad I purchased my Wilson Combat TTU before this unfortunate legal brouhaha arose.

        BTW, your drop-in trigger review was excellent. It helped greatly in assisting me to make an informed decision and purchase.

      • Yes, I’ve put a few mags through my AR with the TTU and I’m very pleased. Very crisp…no noticeable take-up or trigger creep and the break was very clean, predictable and repeatable.

  1. What’s wrong with the US patent system is that one is actually allowed to file such a ridiculous patent, and have it granted.

    Perhaps I should file on the removable automobile engine. Take their abstract and change a few words.

    • Except it isn’t anything like that.

      Let’s take you removable automobile engine. If you developed a technique with standard interfaces that allow it to drop in with minimal connection, then it would be the same.

      If you read the actual CMC patent it has to do with how their package used the pin through a hollow pin (that the trigger and hammer rotate around. It is very specific to the AR-15 implementation.

      • Intellectual property rights are one of the things that helps motivate an inventor to develop and market a new idea. If anyone can come along and exactly copy what you spent time and effort coming up with and perfecting, what’s your motivation for doing so in the first place?

        The problem I have with this situation here is that – apparently, to my knowledge – CMC didn’t do *anything* to attempt to protect its IP after it got its patent. Even letters informing infringers of their patent and offering to discuss licensing would be better than nothing, and at least indicates good-faith efforts to protect their IP.

        This, however … this is like patent trolling. Do nothing to protect your IP for a decade, then sell it so someone else can sue … that’s where I have a problem with the system. The lack of any effort to protect IP rights over an extended period of time should, I think, be counted as a de facto release of the IP for general use.

        • As an independent inventor I can tell you you’re wrong on one key point. Inventors (independent ones anyway) don’t invent things just because the market makes it an attractive financial proposition. We do it because we can’t stop ourselves. We obsess over a problem or question and try to solve it because that’s who and what we are. 90% of the things any inventor creates are either derivative, duplicative, defective or dumb and the market never sees them.

          The IP system in the US is however tragic for the reasons you describe among others. The fact that someone successfully patented a stick and that patents are regularly abandoned only to be sold to trolls (non-practicing entities) tells you exactly how busted it is.

          If you invent it, fine it’s yours. If you abandon your rights of enforcement on a broad and general basis, then you and anyone you might sell that abandoned patent to have no right to later call foul. If you buy a thing with the knowledge that you don’t actually own it in practice that’s a failure of your own thinking and due diligence. The marketplace should not be penalized.

          My tally:
          Inventions: 22
          Successful Inventions: 1
          Derivative Inventions: 3
          Duplicative (someone else invented it too at the same time): 4
          Defective (didn’t work in the end): 10
          Dumb: 4

    • The companies being sued should talk to the legal team at Newegg. They like nothing better than to fight patent trolls.

    • Nothing is wrong with the US patent system. You pay maybe a grand or so (with discounts for small and micro entities), and out of that, you get a certain amount of searching, plus all the administrative work involved (actually, you get a bit more because there is still a bit of cost shifting from issue and maintenance fees towards examination). To make up for it though, it is now far easier to challenge issued patents, esp right after they issue. Different countries have slightly different trade offs between examination costs and depth of searching and examination. The problem with too high of examination/searching costs is that patents then end up only being acquired by the biggest companies. The USPTO still tries hard to help small inventors.

      • Bruce, a grand? You got a source, because it was $1000 for an initial search and a quick consultation with a patent lawyer 20 years ago.

        Filing on your own? Are you kidding?

      • “Nothing is wrong with the US patent system..”

        Ah hahahaha

        Seriously, have you seen some of the patents that have been issues?

    • PPGMD, Yes, I read their abstract, and it’s as deliberately vague as any other claimed “art” the patent trolls use to threaten suit.

      “Affixed by bolts to a transmission, and has engine mounts.”

      That’s what were seeing in this latest example of patent trolling.

  2. This smells of a patent troll. Is the patent good? Has it been challenged in court? Seems to me there would be previous drop in triggers (just guessing, I dunno)

    If the patent is legit, I hope Mossberg wins. If not, I hope Mossberg gets it’s ass handed to them.

    • It is for the very specific implementation for the AR-15. It is highly unlikely to apply to any other drop in trigger unless they use the pin through a pin technique used for the AR-15 drop in triggers.

      • Elftmann doesn’t just do a pin through a pin. They do a pin through a pin through a bearing. Not the same as any other trigger.

        • Then perhaps theirs might be one where the patent doesn’t apply. I’m not an expert on the hundreds of triggers on the market.

          Either way, this patent seems to be for a very specific implementation. Other trigger packs that do not use the pin through another pin likely do not apply to the patent, so it isn’t like Mossberg is suing everyone that has a drop in trigger. So Tavor, Hk, Remington, and other modular triggers are safe.

    • Well, it definitely smells funny. The drop in trigger is not that impressive an innovation which is probably why the first person to make one never bothered to patent it. Mossberg will hurt its image with these lame shenanigans.

      Patents should never be issued for mediocre things. Too much innovation happens in today’s world without the need for the incentives that patent laws are supposed to provide. If a private company spends millions, trying to develop a miracle drug or a super-renewable energy reactor they should absolutely benefit from a patent, but the small time stuff is not worth stiffing commercial activity.

      Also, people who profit from non-practicing entities should die horribly in prison along with their scumbag attorneys.

    • Actually, by the definitions bandied about Congress in recent years, Mossberg would probably not be considered a troll, because they are not a an NPE (non-practicing entity). The biggest tech companies, led by Google, spending tens of millions of dollars have been on the warpath recently against what they consider patent “trolls”. One proposal that they were pushing last year or two would assess attorneys’ fees against losing plaintiffs, but not losing defendants. The absurdity of that finally, hopefully, killed that (and they clearly didn’t want to face attorneys’ fees if they lost).

  3. smells of desperation… Another tally for the firearms industry cannibalizing itself.

    • I think you meant to say: “another case of George Soros(through the ‘freedom group, AKA Cerberus holdings) using the power of his money(like Bloomberg) to destroy a group he hates.”
      There. Fixed it for ya…

  4. When I tried to make and sell a product they tried to stop me with patents. And I was able to beat everyone by proving their patent was after the product was Common Knowledge before the patent date.

    Maybe they can use that defense……

    • It’s called “prior art.” Prove that this was common knowledge and practice before the patent was filed, and you’re OK. The problem is proving it. And many defendants cave in advance because of the cost of litigation. OTOH, these days, courts are granting legal costs and imposing sanctions for frivolous patent lawsuits. So – ask your attorney.

      • At the NRA show I spoke with a few of the manufacturers listed in the lawsuit and all feel that there was significant prior art, including tons of triggers for military arms that have been “drop-in” (in a self-contained housing) for ages. Additionally, Timney has been fighting this in court already for quite a while. Since wellbefore Mossberg acquired the patent, apparently.

        • Jeremy definitely touched on the crux of the issue. Timney and others have made “drop in” trigger mechanisms for years – replacing the individual installation of triggers, sears, and in some cases, hammers, with a single unit that contains all those parts. In fact, Timney more than likely holds patents of their own for this.

          The question is if it is a novel improvement to specifically adapt this technology to the AR-15 platform. The USPTO undoubtedly looked at prior art for trigger mechanisms and decided that the AR15 application was unique enough to grant a patent. This would be invalidated if someone else had invented and marketed a drop in AR-15 trigger prior to McCormick’s version.

          I’ve had to deal a lot with patents lately for my industry – we recently had to prove that prior art cited by the USPTO to deny our patent actually worked in exactly the opposite way than the examiner stated, and that in fact, two of the prior art claims would have worked in tandem to cause our product to not work at all.

        • “The USPTO undoubtedly looked at prior art for trigger mechanisms and decided…”

          That’s being charitable. There are lots of patents out there that seem to have been granted solely because the patent examiner didn’t really understand what he was reading (obfuscating patents for this purpose is a real thing), and just rubber-stamped it. Seems to happen a lot in the software world.

          Seriously, if Apple can get a design patent on a “display device” that’s a flat rectangle with rounded-off corners, how much investigation do you think the USPTO is really doing?

      • Timney weren’t DBags and didn’t patent it. That gives me the utmost respect for them.

        • Getting a patent isn’t being a douche bag, it is the inventor protecting their invention.

          I know someone that was burned by the machine shop that they had making their product. But without a patent is extremely difficult to go after said machine shop.

        • Patenting what is obvious and/or operating a “business” with a substantial objective being malicious patent abuse is thru “my lawyer is bigger than you” is skum though.

          Formerly had a high opinion of Mossberg. Even recently purchased my 1st 500 specifically to avoid new Remington 870 problems. Pathetic.

        • If it was so obvious it wouldn’t have taken almost 40 years for someone to come up with how to implement it for an AR-15.

          What may seem obvious after someone invents it, often isn’t so before the fact.

        • A friend and I invented and patented a new type of well screen. Licensed the patent to a company to manufacture it. They quit paying us royalties, continuing to build and sell the stuff. We were forced to pull their license and threaten to prosecute in order to protect our patented invention.

          In what way does stopping someone from copying our hard-earned invention make us D-bags?

  5. The only one I feel sorry for is Michael McCormick. Patents were never supposed to be big company litigation sticks but that’s all they’ve ended up being. It’s another continuing travesty supported by government bureaucracy.

    • Sadly, this is the way it is. Any legally binding thing like a patent is made infinitely more difficult by lawyers and, more specifically, executives who make calculated business decisions to challenge/ignore them. It’s simple Math really.

      If you can make 10million dollars by violating a patent, and you don’t think a patent holder has the resources to bring a viable suit against you, then why not? You’ve got ten million in the bank to spend on court cases. If the other guy has 0-5million in the bank, you’ve won.

      When the patent holder lets the patent expire, or it does on its own, you continue to win.

      Patents are fairly short term protection, expensive to obtain, and even more expensive to defend.

  6. That is really an obvious “idea”– a removable, internal trigger group. One that uses the installation pins as rests or pivots for the operating trigger parts. So… it’s only the housing holding the trigger parts together that’s new?

    Good luck with that in court.

    • Well, they did receive a patent on it. However, I do personally believe it isn’t going to hold up in court as the prior art question brought up by Great Unknown in the comments above is a huge deal here. While CMC was the first to see it as novel and try for and win a patent on it, they didn’t actually invent the idea nor were they the first (or anywhere close) to manufacture and sell a self-contained, drop-in FCG. I do suspect that the defendants here will be able to firmly prove that.

  7. Good luck with that. Patent/copyright case law seems to be fairly settled regarding after-market components like this one, from what I can tell (IANAL).

  8. Is this any different than the LMT monolithic upper receiver patent, which itself is basically very similar to the Johnson machine gun receiver of 1941 ?

  9. I’ve owned a few (3?) Mossberg shotguns over the years, but frankly I think I’ll avoid ever buying anything from them in the future. Acquiring an obviously over broad patent and then going around suing everyone over it is a bad way of doing business. But then I suppose it’s easier money than actually building a quality product and selling it for a competitive price.

  10. Patent litigation is called “The Sport of Kings” for a reason. Patent cases are costly, and can be “bet the company” cases.

    A patent is a government-issued and sanctioned temporary monopoly. Monopolies often make a lot of money, so there is a serious reason to enforce them.

    In school, we were indoctrinated to believe that monopolies are baaaaaaaaaaaaad and illegal. They not necessarily either. Monopolies achieved by merit are perfectly legal. Inventions protected by patents are likewise perfectly legal.

    Mossberg claims a legal monopoly through its patent. That’s not anti-competitive. There are a lot of companies whose mottoes are “we don’t license, we litigate!” Mossberg doesn’t do that. Mossberg is perfectly willing to license the invention to other manufacturers. After all, ip rights are property, and a business can’t use somebody else’s property without paying for it

    The fact that Mossberg purchased the patent rights is irrelevant. The patent holder received his reward for inventiveness when he sold.

    I have no idea whether Mossberg’s ip rights will be upheld or not. Either way, drop-in triggers are here to stay and they aren’t going away.

    • Ralph, how can Mossburg sue manufacturers for infringement on triggers manufactured and sold *before* Mossburg owned the patent?

      • There’s an entire industry built around purchasing obscure patents and then suing companies that are believed to be infringing upon it. There are law firms and corporations that do nothing but.

  11. Why should Mossberg be able to sue any entity for the alleged patent infringement for anything that happened prior to the purchase? IF something happened it most likely happened before Mossberg became owner. Isn’t that kind of like ex-post facto laws?

    • It is not an Ex Post Facto law.

      There is a statute of limitations that applies to situations like this. By purchasing the patent, Mossberg stepped into the shoes of the patent’s prior owner. If he could sue and collect damages, then they can sue and collect damages. If he could not, they cannot.

      Although I am not an expert on Patent Law, I note that the patent does not purport to apply to all “drop-in” (aka Modular) triggers. Indeed, the patent abstract notes that Modular triggers already existed when the “invention” occurred. The patent only applies to modular triggers that have a “new” pin design as outlined in the patent.
      1) it doesn’t seem overly broad,
      2) it does not seem to be a “new” mousetrap, and
      3) it wouldn’t apply to modular triggers that don’t have the Pin feature.

      (Note – although the patent doesn’t specify it, it seems relevant only with AR designed patents)

  12. This should be fun to watch, especially in the wake of the ongoing FireClean trainwreck.

    Speaking for me, I just put in an order for a TriggerTime AR “roller” trigger. My wife just shot an AR for the first time, and if I can put in something that makes the trigger feel more like her beloved 1911, all to the good.

  13. Way to go Mossberg. You’ve just completely ruined your public image through naked greed.

    The patent might be your majority income as purchases of your other products diminish as word of your “j@ck@$$ery” gets around.

    And shooters have long memories. Winchester still hasn’t been forgiven for the post-1964 Model 70s.

  14. Now, I’m no lawyer, but in order to sue for infringement, don’t you have to have suffered damages or losses in some manner? If so, how can mossberg possibly go after royalties for items produced before they acquired the patent?

    • 1) When someone infringes on a patent, the damages start to accrue immediately. Typically, the lawsuit comes later.
      2) Because enforcing a patent is expensive, smaller inventors often sell patents to companies with the resources to protect the property. (Because of the costs, partnerships and/or multiple ownership is necessary).
      3) The “damages” go with the patent – not the original owner. Thus, the owner at the time of the lawsuit can pursue the damage award even if the new owner has to give some/all of the damages (pre-sale) to the original owner pursuant to their sales agreement.

      While there are certainly Patent Trolls out there, a brief review of the patent suggests that this lawsuit is not frivolous. They invented a new part and claim others are producing copies w/o paying them a royalty.

      It is no different from when the US Govt had to pay royalties for stealing many of Mauser’s inventions and installing them in the 1903 Springfield Rifle. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/M1903_Springfield

  15. I just scanned over the patent, didn’t go into depth, and in particular didn’t look at the file wrapper (I.e the prosecution history). Here are some of the things I noticed.

    The claims are decently written, but not expertly, which adds a slight bit of ambiguity that shouldn’t be there. I have seen far worse, but would be embarrassed to have written them. A significant amount of prior art was cited, mostly in the form of patents and patent applicants. This is better than most patents these days, though we really don’t know which prior art references were cited by the examiner and which by the applicant (need the prosecution history for that).

    Typically though, most in a case like this comes from the applicant. Only a single non-patent prior art reference was cited, and that may be signicant – in some art areas, the best prior art can be non-patent sources (which here could include product brochures, federal specs, etc). Interestingly, this patent was fairly heavily cited in other (later) patents and patent applications as prior art – which doesn’t mean it is valid, but rather suggests that it is basic.

    There was six years between initial priority date and the patent’s filing (?) date, which suggests that more applications were involved. Finally, the patent has already (successfully) undergone one reexamination- again, without reviewing the prosecution history, I don’t know If it was ex party (initiated by the applicant, which usually means that they were having an examiner look at more prior art) or inter parties (initiated by someone else, which typically means that they were challenging it in the USPTO).

    Oh, and the above was not a legal opinion.

    • Great points. From the headlines, one would think that they claim to have invented the “drop in trigger” in its entirety.
      – it would also be interesting to know if other companies have decided to pay them royalties. If so, how much are they paying?

  16. It sounds like McCormick sold the patent to Mossberg because they couldn’t afford to protect it. One of the requirements of a patent is protecting it, so it was probably a use it or lose it proposition for them.

    • Although manufacturing ability was part of the reason sold Browning sold his inventions to big gun companies, the ability of those companies to protect his inventions from infringers was one of the reason John Browning sold his designs.

  17. There are so many BS patents. A patent should only be awarded for novel and non-obvious ideas. If there are prior examples of the same thing then it’s neither novel or non-obvious and the decision to award the patent was wrong and the weaponization of the patent by a company is detestable. It’s extra detestable if it’s a big company doing it.

    Grow some balls Mossberg and make your money by producing a good product at a good price, have good customer service, innovate in how you produce that product to lower your costs and increase your profit margins, or come up with a novel and non-obvious idea and be first to market with it! Down with patent trolls!

  18. I have gotten to know the guys at MechArmor from a vendors perspective, and this industry would be hard pressed to find two more outstanding guys/Vets. I just saw that now they have been pulled into this witch hunt.

    This entire suit by Mossberg is flat out arbitrary BS! For one, all the Mfg and retail sales companies i have seen listed so far are small to medium size vendors who most likely do not have the funds to fight the likes of $&%#berg! Although I am not going to aid those scum and their lawyer scum by listing all of the LARGE, well-funded companies that have been selling these same products for more years than I can count; but that list is long, and they are NOT on it!

    Mossberg cannot just sue the little guys and leave the big fish out of their scum bucket action because they know they will get their useless butts kicked in court. You sue EVERYONE or NO ONE! That company should be exiled for this stupid and selfish move.

    Here is a question: Since Mossberg waited so many yrs to feel slighted, did they send out an industry wide NOTICE proving their Patent claim and putting everyone selling or making them on notice prior to just arbitrarily choosing a list of small companies to stick it to? Because at the very least, that would have given certain companies who have been struggling to make a buck, the time to quit selling the claimed product, and not be rolled up in this BS. I for one have been deep in this industry for many yrs and I never once heard about any single company or person having a complete patent for this style of drop in trigger for the AR. And obviously the huge amount of other gun mfg and sales companies out there making and or selling these drop in triggers did not hear of that either.

    I for one, and every single person I know or will ever come to know from this point on, will NOT be buying anything from Mossberg, or any other company associated with them, ever again. How’s that Mossberg! You gain some penny’s from sticking it to the little guys, rack up massive lawyer bills and possibly make a little coin on royalties until one of us bright lights figures out a new way to add a drop in trigger to the AR platform; BUT after this ordeal YOUR SALES LOST for the destruction of your already lacking reputation should far out weight any gain.

    What really gets me is that MechArmor began many yrs ago, and as I heard it, at the direct request of the US Army, were tasked to designed and produced a far batter top gunner turret system for our soldiers driving hummers. What has Mossberg done to protect our soldiers?

    Mossberg should take heed and a clue from the latest Target store action. So far Target has lost like 6 Billion dollars and their stock is going down after pissing off just about everyone with a brain! Imagine how it will be for the stockholders and bean counters over there at Mossberg when this same thing happens to them after crapping in the very small fresh water hole, which is this small gun industry.

    My lord who is running that place these days? Someone needs to be canned and quick.

    • I don’t know who runs Mossberg just now, but I do know who runs the Cerberus Group, which owns the ‘Freedom Group’, which owns Mossberg.
      George Soros. So that’s where you can place the blame. Mossberg’s actions aren’t so surprising now are they?

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