Screencap by Boch via US District Court.
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Tis the season for resurrecting the much-loved Browning Hi-Power 9mm pistol. Springfield Armory teased its new product — Springfield’s new Hi-Power reincarnation, the SA-35 pistol — in a series of advertisements and on its SpringfieldPremiere website.

European American Armory took Springfield’s image, did a little photoshopping and then published it to promote their own Girsan MC P-35 Hi-Power clone that’s been available for a while.

Here’s EAA’s reboot using the Springfield Armory ad image . . .

 

Screencap by Boch via US District Court.

Springfield wasn’t amused. They took enough umbrage that they’ve filed suit against EAA in US District Court seeking to enjoin the competitor from using the artwork from the Springfield ad in any way and seeking an order to have them destroy any promotional materials EAA has created. Springfield is also seeking damages and attorneys’ fees.

From the opening page of the filing from US District Court in Rock Island, Illinois (download here):

Springfield Armory makes and sells firearms. Springfield Armory is one of the most successful and famous companies in the firearms industry. In September 2021, Springfield began advertising for a soon-to-be-introduced gun using an original photo of a gunsmith at a workbench with the teaser caption “we’re bringing it back …” The staged photo features a gunsmith employed by Springfield at a workbench in Springfield’s gun shop. EAA competes with Springfield Armory in selling firearms. EAA copied Springfield’s advertising and photo and made minor edits to the photo and advertisement in order to portray it as originating from EAA. EAA published the altered photo to promote EAA’s products and to divert customers from purchasing Springfield Armory’s products. This infringes Springfield’s copyright rights and constitutes unfair competition, among other violations, under the Lanham act.

It doesn’t take a legal rocket surgeon to figure out this effort by EAA to poke a little fun at Springfield will probably not end well for them.

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46 COMMENTS

      • No, its not called satire.

        satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.

        That’s not happening here.

        Its possible it could be a “competitive parity” type tactic using a form of parody. In “competitive parity” products offered by, say Brand X are considered or presented by Brand X to be similar in nature and can be “substituted” for, say, Brand Y product.

        • Was it funny? yes.
          Did it ridicule? yes.
          Did it criticize SA’s self aggrandizement pretending they brought back a platform that was dead when you could really just go out and buy it any given day of the week for the last several decades? yes.

          Seems like it meets your criteria.

  1. Its going to come down to a fair use call. Although they apparently used the photo its self and alter it, they do not copy the Springfield advertisement nor logo. The pic was offered publicly on their web site ad and the likeness of the person is not identifiable in either pic use (can’t see the face) nor are they specifically identified in the ad as a specific person. Its generally not infringement to use a pic of someone if their face is not shown or they are not specifically identified in the photo if it was offered publicly.

    • IF the photo is in public domain. If Springfield created the image in a photo shoot they put together (spend $0.01) then Springfield owns the image and EAA if screwed/stupid.

      • a photo can be public but not public domain. Advertisement is this way, present in public but not public domain because it belongs to the company.

        But Springfield is claiming its THEIR armorer and THEIR employee in THEIR shop but the likeness of the person is not identifiable as theirs or any specific person, just the logo on the shirt that EAA did not use. Springfield put this pic in public in advertisement but never identified the picture its self or the gunsmith likeness as theirs in an identifiable manner, just the logo on the shirt. The guys likeness is not identifiable because you do not see a name or his face.

        Springfield qualifies as a public figure entity, corporations are considered “persons” in the U.S. – Springfield has a certain social position within a certain scope and a significant influence that is often widely of concern to the public according to their own complaint – and can benefit enormously from society (revenue from gun manufacturing), and are closely related to public interests in society (firearms). They qualify as a public figure.

        As a public figure its legal to use their public facing “likeness” but not their copyright. TTAG does this type of thing here all the time with their memes, for example, currently with the public facing “likeness” of Alec Baldwin who is a public figure, its fair use. Springfield’s public facing “likeness” is represented in their advertisements they publicly present.

        Its generally not infringement to use a pic of someone if their face is not shown or they are not specifically identified in the photo if it was offered publicly.

        Its fair use to a public figure public facing “likeness”, but will the court consider Springfield a public figure? Likely not for this purpose, but its possible.

        The EAA ad does not say “buy our stuff and not Springfield stuff”. A persons post Springfield portrayed in their complaint did indicate a likeness to the Springfield product in terms of advertisement but not an obvious confusion because they indicated by post their ability to distinguish between what was Springfield and what was EAA thus no “divert” for at least this person.

        Springfields whole case depends on them being able to show that EAA intended malice and thus harm in the form of diverting customers. On the face of Springfields complaint and according to their own complaint I do not see that here, but also don’t know what Springfield will present in court and whatever that is could substantiate their claim.

        “competitive parity” using a form of parody by using a competitors words or public facing material in a “new work” in a “limited” fashion is legal to do as long as the trademark is not infringed, EAA did not infringe the trademark in the pic because they did not use it. This does look sort of like a “competitive parity” type tactic using a form of parody. In “competitive parity” products offered by, say Brand X are considered or presented by Brand X to be similar in nature and can be “substituted” for, say, Brand Y product. But if there is malice intended for unfair competition (“divert” customers according to Springfield) its not legal.

        The likeness of what Springfield claims is their gunsmith is not identifiable as a Springfield gunsmith or even an employee of Springfield by the pic content, nor is the person in the pic identifiable. EAA did not use the Springfield logo in their use of the pic so did not infringe a Springfield trademark, the presence of the pic content its self other than the logo does not represent any specific trademark or copyright (just because something appears on a web site it does not mean its automatically copyright of the entity behind the web site). Their own complaint claims a malice intent by EAA to divert customers but also in their own complaint they indirectly substantiate that “divert” did not happen here because of their exhibit showing the post of a person that indicated being able to distinguish between EAA and Springfield using the same advertisement that Springfield said as to “divert” customers to cause unfair competition.

        So lets wait for the arguments.

        • You are wrong about photo not being able to be in the public domain. Anything that’s copyrighted can fall into the public domain, if the copyright is not renewed or successfully defended. This includes photographs. The Springfield Armory photograph has not existed long enough to become public domain, however.

          Where I think Springfield Armory has overreached is in the claim that EAA tried to mask the origins of the Photoshopped illustration to deceive the viewer as to its origins. The accompanying text of the tweet clearly show that EAA acknowledges that the image is Springfield’s and its illustration is a reply. Even if Springfield Armory prevails in the suit, I think they’ll not realize much from it other than a judicial acknowledgement that it created the image first.

    • It would seem Springfield created the image new for their curretncampaign, merely mimicking the style of earlier works. The workbench and items arrayed upon it are repated exactly in the EAA take-off, Yes, they staged a different frifle leaning up agasint the right side end of the workbench. Minor detail, I can’t lift an image from a copyright owner (I>E the creator./user of the image) and make a coule minor changes and call it a “new image”. and use it as my own work. Figure se Its seated at bench looks identical, logo on the back of the guys shirt is different. Tis appears to me t be a dirty “lift” by the underdog competitor.

      In any case WHY would I want any of those Hi Power clones?I’ve got a nice collection of the real article. Have noe of them wiht me everywhere I go.

  2. I (an average, reasonable, prudent person) find it funny. Perhaps they’ll claim it’s a parody? I’m not an attorney, so not sure how that will play out as they used it to advertise at the same time.

  3. EAA is certainly allowed to poke fun at Springfield. Definitely falls within free use / satire protections.

    Springfield needs to grow a thicker skin.

  4. This will end poorly for EAA. It makes me wonder what else they have stolen as far as intellectual property goes…

    I’m certain some haters will be arguing for EAA just because they hate all things Springfield.

    • Karen. This is nothing and your assertions are retarded. Springfield are the worst kind of firearms manufacture. They sold us out in Illinois and now they are proving themselves to be petty. The truth of the matter is that they are;t happy to have a competitor to their BHP. Even if I didn’t dislike Springfield, this is no big deal. Not worth suing over.

    • Is Springfield taking the moral high(power) ground?!? That’s rich ILLinoyed traitors. Not interested in either gun btw.

      • What are you a nagging wife/mother-in-law dredging up/never getting over “ancient” history?

        Hold a grudge against he damn Chicoms, Progtards of the world, Envionmental wackos.

        • While I do more than hold a grudge against the Chicoms, Progtards of the world and Environmental wackos as you suggest, WTF would I forget about a firearms company in my home state that actively campaigned against my rights? They are now in the exact same boat as the POS you listed. Until the Larsons have no connection whatsoever to SA, they can FOAD. You must be on their payroll.

  5. “This infringes Springfield’s copyright rights and constitutes unfair competition, among other violations, under the Lanham act.”

    hmmmm… it could be said that way, but its probably not unfair competition yet unless they can substantiate their claim “EAA published the altered photo to promote EAA’s products and to divert customers from purchasing Springfield Armory’s products.”

    How do they know its purpose was “to divert” and is “diverting” the reason they used the photo? They need to substantiate that. It would not be unfair competition unless their claim is true. It could be a competition parody jab at Springfield which would make it fair use.

    • Isn’t all of advertising intended to ‘divert customers’ from purchasing other products to your own? By that logic every single ad is unfair.

      • No, it isn’t.

        You are referencing customer choice to decide one brand over another for what ever their reason is and the influence role advertising plays to simply advertise the product. The purposes of advertising is advertising your product.

        Divert in this context is to influence customers choice against, say, Brand X by directing them to, say, Brand Y by unscrupulous or unethical or illegal means. That’s not happening here unless Springfield can show this is the case.

  6. Yeah, I’m not real impressed with Springfield here. I’m not sure how EAA utilizing the same photo to make a tongue-in-cheek dig at Springfield truly diverts customers. If Springfield can prove that EEA’s actions resulted or will result in loss of revenue, then they have a case. If they can’t prove it…..I don’t know. Either way, I wonder if the press Springfield will receive as a result of this won’t harm them more than the photo editing.

  7. “in order to portray it as originating from EAA”

    They tagged them and also said that they are in fact responding to their ad, as is pretty obvious by “already been brought”. This is fair use all day everyday, a very obvious parody. They did not use their emblem or any other trademark, so they can be salty all they want.

  8. Just noticed that EAA also added a second photo within the image on the left side of the top “shelf”. Is it a random person or is there some significance I’m missing?

    • Nice catch MJ. I tried to ascertain who is in the photo but its too grainy.

      Well done EAA. Love when competitors punk each other.

    • I saw that as well. Browning’s photo is clear enough, but the other is too small. Is it Dieudonné Saive? And of course the long gun on the side of the work bench is different too. I don’t recognize it.

      In context, Girsan may be able to get away with this because there is more to their ad than just the photoshop. In Springfield’s ad, Springfield says “We’re bringing it back.” And the Girsan ad says, “Already been brought.” The context then is that Girsan says to Springfield, “been there, done that.” Which is true: they are both selling essentially the same pistol, the High Power.

      • I didn’t realize that they had put “already been brought.” This definitely seems to be in the vein of ridiculing SA.

        Still wondering who the other pic is. There’s probably a few other Easter eggs in that we’re missing.

        • In my geekiness, I tried and couldn’t find any other differences other than some shading differences here and there and the obvious rifle and logo changes.

  9. I’m glad to see that they are operating in the best tradition of Springfield and are completely unable to take a joke.

    Has anybody checked if they’re using back-channel political influence or their lobbyists to promote a bill requiring importers of Hi-Power clones to post a “safety bond”? That seems like the Springfield thing to do.

  10. Another poorly reported piece from TTAG. Look at the actual filing in the link. The image wasn’t just used in a post as they portray. It was used in an actual marketing email sent by EAA with a link to buy their gun. They photoshopped their logo in place of the SA’s and used it to sell products. It is not even remotely satire or parody in the context of selling goods.

    • Exactly, they stole intellectual property that was the product of an expensive photo shoot and used it to promote their virtually identical product in direct competition to Springfield.

      And as a leftist Democrat, I believe Springfield is entitled to petition the government for a redress of grievances, regardless of their political position.

      Of course, as always the conservatives will insist Springfield doesn’t have that right because they dislike Springfield.

      • Just need to add some clarity to my statement.

        And as a far-leftist Marxist Fascist Democrat, that actively votes and supports this subversive party, that is aiding and abetting the invasion of the United States with over 2 million (and counting) illegals in an attempt to collapse the American economic system, I believe…

        Fixed it!

  11. I was kind of caught up in the new SA-35, but this is just a reminder of what a douche company Springfield is and has been. I mean for goodness’ sake, this is a company that has copied someone’s intellectual property for almost everything they have made, or just imported someone else’s better idea. This company is run by whiners and frankly, they make some crappy copies of quality items.

  12. Springfield sucks. Worst gun company in America. Trashy firearms. Imported trashy firearms. Stupid slogans printed on trashy firearms. Supports democrats. That last sentences sums it up.

  13. Yeah I’m sure springfield can probably get something out of EAA for their ‘copyright theft’. But I don’t believe that they’ll ever recover from pulling the biggest b*tch move out of a major firearms company in at least a decade. Yeah, yeah got memes on by a smaller gun company. And why did the big brains over and s.a.? They filed a federal freaking lawsuit for copyright infringement over their advertisement.

    I was never a huge fan of springfied, but I know they make good 1911s and I have often considered picking up one of their well made 1911s. But after this the company can go pound sand for all I care. There’s very literally dozens of other companies can make both better and cheaper than anything they make. They’re officially on my ‘do not buy’ list.

  14. Very smart. Everybody in the US gun world knows about the Browning Hi-Power resurrection by Springfield. How many didn’t know about the Girsan version, but know now, thanks to Springfield’s well-publicized reation?

    If EAA did their legal homework beforehand, they’re getting an ad campaign for a fraction of the cost…

  15. Wow SA truly is such a “tool” company. Any decent person within the industry would have just fired back with a tongue in cheek built here vs imports have to copy everything jab and gone on.

  16. Springfield should get a sense of humor. Phillip is right. I didn’t know about the Girsan version. Now I’m gonna go look….

  17. ChoseDeath:

    Exactly!! SA crybabies!! I was stoked about the Coming back HP. Was looking hard at SA.. although they are traitors. Now I can clear my conscience and save on my wAllet!!

  18. I was pretty excited about the SA35, now less so. As a non-lawyer, EAAs ad clearly constitutes fair use, and this is or borders on being a SLAPP lawsuit. I DGAF about EAA, but this makes me like SA quite a bit less, coming from someone who already owns 2. Frankly I’m a little tired about companies abusing the copywrite law system in instances that are pretty clearly fair use. Bottom line, bitch move that will cost SA $ in the long run.

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