Update to the Fountain Pen Drama

You may recall this post from two months ago: Fountain Pen ~Drama~. New developments have come to light!

Actually, they came to light two weeks ago, but I’ve been super busy this month and haven’t been keeping up with the latest in fountain pen gossip. Better late than never!

Last Time on Fountain Pen Drama

Quick summary: In the earlier post, I described how TWSBI took action against Narwhal (both pen makers) for allegedly copying their piston filler design. I pointed out that TWSBI had no apparent rights to the design, and suggested that they were way overreaching. TWSBI’s action was to threaten pen retailers, stating that they would not sell pens through any retailer that also carried Narwhal pens.

TWSBI and Narwhal Reach a Settlement

On June 23, 2022, TWSBI and Narwhal released joint statements as part of a settlement agreement. TWSBI agreed that they had no IP rights to the piston design and that anyone is allowed to make the same. TWSBI further retracted their demand on the retailers. Narwhal made no concessions at all.

You can find TWSBI’s statement here, and I’ll reproduce it below in case it later disappears from their site:

Screenshot of a statement by TWSBI, acknowledging that the patent in question expired 75 years ago and that anyone can make the design in question.

You can find Narwhal’s statement here, and reproduced below:

Screenshot of a statement by Narwhal, acknowledging that the patent in question expired 75 years ago and that anyone can make the design in question.

So What Happened Here

Obviously a lot took place behind the scenes. A “settlement” means they have reached an agreement that is contractually binding, probably to avoid litigation. The fact that the statements are so one-sided suggests to me that TWSBI learned just how deep they had already dug their hole, and had decided to stop digging.

We have no way of knowing whether any money changed hands. If I were Narwhal, I would have been satisfied with a modest payout to cover whatever attorney fees this fracas caused, but they had substantial leverage in view of TWSBI’s anti-competitive actions, so they could potentially have gotten more.

What Does It All Mean

I see this as a pretty substantial win for the fountain pen world as a whole. There has been a spate of ineffective, anti-competitive tomfoolery lately, going well beyond the protections provided by IP law. It damages the reputations of the people perpetrating these schemes while causing real economic harm to the competition, while the latter are operating (in my view) completely ethically.

We haven’t heard anything from the other big malfeasor (Kaweco), and I don’t expect we will. Whereas Narwhal is an American company, Kaweco’s victim Moonman/Majohn is a Chinese company, and they seem far less interested in engaging with their aggressor. But hopefully this very one-sided win for Narwhal will discourage other established pen makers from throwing their weight around in a similar way.

One thought on “Update to the Fountain Pen Drama

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