By far, the most difficult part of making a throwing knife is arriving at a design that is both unique and functional. Making a unique design requires a tremendous amount of research of existing designs, and a keen eye for detail. In many cases, the research is the most laborious part of the process. For this reason, knifemakers like me are very sensitive to copies, because the time we’ve spent on research and design is essentially stolen from us.
Those who haven’t gone through the process of research and design are always the first to claim that a given design isn’t unique. The explanation is rather simple – design distinctions are based on fine details, and generally speaking, it is very difficult to have an eye for fine details when one hasn’t put in the time to research and create something unique.
There are two types of copies – unintentional and intentional.
An unintentional copy is coincidence – it occurs when a maker arrives at an identical – or nearly identical – design by coincidence or accident, without having first seen the original. Unintentional copies are common and perfectly understandable. I am guilty of one that I know of. When the duplicator has been made aware of the situation, and when the duplicator wants to claim their work as their own, the right action is to respectfully change the design in one or more substantial areas. An apology is not called for.
An intentional copy is not coincidence – it occurs when a maker first sees, inspects, or measures the original, and then creates a version that is identical or nearly identical. If the duplicator does not credit the original design, then they are falsely claiming ownership over the design and they have committed theft of intellectual property. The right action is to acknowledge the misstep and respectfully change the copied design in one or more substantial areas.
Most of my designs are very simple, and obviously, the more simple a design, the higher the chances that an unintentional copy may be created. For this reason, I always give people the benefit of the doubt when I first encounter copies. Also for this reason, it becomes difficult to demonstrate the uniqueness of my designs, because to do so requires an extremely fine analysis of the design details.
If asked, I will grant anyone permission to copy my designs for PERSONAL USE, on the condition that design credit is explicitly provided when posting photos or videos on the internet. Furthermore, I am willing to provide assistance to anyone struggling to arrive at a unique throwing knife design for personal or commercial use.
In late 2017, I changed the design of my East Wind knife. One of the primary reasons I did this was to make the shape more distinct and less generic. There are three primary distinguishing features of my current East Wind design.
1. The overall body of the knife is straight. There is no forwards or backwards curve.
2. The point of the knife is located on the centerline.
3. The body of the knife has a subtle waist (narrow section).
In instances when I have accused someone of copying my East Wind design, I am presented with the counter argument that (a) the East Wind is a kiridashi, and (b) the kiridashi design is in the public domain. While I completely agree with point (b), my response to point (a) is as follows. Traditional kiridashi, and all of the kiridashi that I’ve encountered in my research, do not posses the three distinguishing features that I’ve outlined above – especially features 1 and 2. Most importantly, however, I have never accused someone of copying any of my designs unless it is known that it is an intentional copy. A guaranteed way to avoid infringement of my East Wind design is to locate the tip along the spine of the knife, as is seen on 99.9% of existing and historic kiridashi.
Although it is not a mainstay of my catalog, my Rope Dart design was recently copied. My Rope Dart borrows its distinguishing curves from my Kunai design, which dates back to 2008. By far, the most laborious part of designing my Kunai was the research of existing designs. Essentially, the shape of the tail end is the only distinguishing characteristic. My Rope Dart uses the same tail shape. There are two primary distinguishing features of my Rope Dart design.
1. The shape of the waist – the narrow section between the blade and the tail.
2. The pointed shape of the tail.
In instances when I have accused someone of copying my Rope Dart design, I am presented with alleged prior art depicting the character Scorpion from Mortal Kombat. Although this weapon does include feature 1 mentioned above, it does not include feature 2. Furthermore, even if this depiction did include both distinguishing features, it is unknown if it predates my design. Most importantly, however, I have never accused someone of copying any of my designs unless it is known that it is an intentional copy.