Glock’s Trademark Design

glock_trademark-tfb

In 2001 Glock applied to trademark their pistol design. The trademark application was approved in 2009 (Serial Number 76279422). Glock’s application states that this design was not used by anyone before 1995, so this trademark must be for the third generation Glock which went on sale in 1996.

The description of the mark is this (emphasis added) …

The mark consists of the three dimensional overall configuration of a semi-automatic pistol having a blocky an squared-off shape as viewed from the side, the front, and the rear. The vertical lines at the rear of the slide indicate ridges. The stippling is a feature of the mark and not intended to indicate color. The dotted lines indicate features that are not claimed as a part of the mark. Neither the shape of the notch on the rear sight nor the circular shape of the interior of the barrel are claimed as a part of the mark. The shape of the trigger guard and the shape, location, and a position of the trigger safety tab are claimed as a part of the mark, but no claim is made to the shape of the trigger separate from the trigger safety tab.

Glock’s trademark comes down to one thing: a squarish slide (not fully square because the Glock does have slight bevelling) without any cutouts at the front or rear that would change its “squared-off shape” as seen from the front or rear.

Glock 17 3rd Generation. Photo from Wikipedia.

Because a slide that has bee CNC machined into shape would naturally start as a rectangular block, I thought surely some recent manufactures have produced guns with squarish slides. Turns out they have not. Everyone has been very careful to add cut outs to avoid attracting attention from Mr Glock and his lawyers.

Take for example the Diamondback Firearms DB9, a subcompact Glock clone, and the aftermarket Glock pistol slides made by Lonewolf. Notice the cutouts at the front of the slide.

Diamondback Firearms DB9
Lonewolf aftermarket slide for Glock pistols.

Was Glock the first to use a “squarish” look. Of course not. By 1982, when the first generation Glock was launched, guns of just about every shape and size had already been experimented with. Two much earlier guns with a squarish shape were the Colt M1900, design in 1897, and the MAC-10, designed in 1964. I am sure there are many other examples.

Colt M1900 (1897) (Photo from Adams Guns)
MAC-10 Machine Pistol (1964)
.25 Webley and Scott pistol, model of 1906. Photo from guns.ru.

Glock sued Austrian Sporting Arms and ISSC Handels GmbH over their ISSC M22 pistol. They settled out of court and Austrian Sporting Arms was forced to change their design. Here are the before and after photos. Note the slide cutouts in the after photo …

ISSC M22 Before Settlement
ISSC M22 After Settlement

So what is Maxwell Corp’s sin? They are importing a blank firing replica with a slide that has no much metal on it. No cut outs == get sued by Glock.

Unlike patents and copyright, trademarks don’t ever become public domain.

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Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Gidge

    So what of the Italian/Russian Strike One/Strizh pistol recently selected by the Russian army.

    If their marketing is to be believed it’s just like a Glock, only better in every way.

    http://world.guns.ru/handguns/hg/rus/strike_one_pistol-e.html

    • Brandon

      Strizh has a cutout on the top of the slide, giving it a sloping appearance, ergo not square when viewed from the side

  • Sam J

    Two inaccuracies: the right to a trademark is lost when the applicant stops actively using it in commerce.

    Secondly, the description of the trademark is unlike the claims of a patent. A trademark protects against products which are “confusingly similar” to the mark.

    Your read that the trademark protects against square slides is incorrect. The judge would apply both the description, the picture, and the actual product, as used in commerce, to determine whether there is a “likelihood of confusion” in commerce. Basically does it look like a Glock. A slide alone may not infringe on Glock’s rights since the whole gun must be considered.

    This is unlike a patent where the claims themselves define the scope.

    • Gidge

      Unfortunately you’ve got to have the funds and resources to contest the issue. Short of someone backing him, this poor guy is going to be bankrupt long before he gets to court

      • Zincorium

        But he’d still lose, because his gun looks almost exactly like a Glock, and it has to be intentional. He’s using their trade dress to sell a product, it’d be like opening a coffee place and using a modified version of the Starbucks logo to convince people to come in.

        I’m not sure how he thought this was a good idea, rather than I don’t know, actually trying to sell his starter gun based on it’s own individual merits rather than trying to cash in on people who like Glocks?

  • http://cowboyblob.blogspot.com Cowboy Blob

    Sure would be nice if GLOCK would market its own blank-firing pistol, so those of us needing prop guns wouldn’t have to resort to Umarex knock-offs to simulate a real GLOCK.

    • Avery

      Doesn’t Glock have some sort of weird copyright thing with eBay? I recall that listing that you have a Glock replica airsoft, you can’t mention Glock or it will get the item pulled from the site, so you have to call it by its model number or something else fairly sneaky.

  • http://cowboyblob.blogspot.com Cowboy Blob

    Better yet, a GLOCK CO2-powered AirSoft that cycled like the real thing.

    • Kav

      It’s called KSC and you can get them from HK retailers. Enjoy.

  • Nadnerbus

    I’m not trying to be an apologist for Glock or their A-hole lawyers, but I just don’t see the outrage. All of the products being sued look to be clearly and without a doubt based very closely on the Glock look, undoubtedly to piggy back on the famous, popular, and already very well marketed Glock brand. This isn’t just a case of looking similar, but being close down to the last detail, from slide serrations, trigger safety, color, thumb indent on the frame, mag and slide release, etc.

    If I am not mistaken, when a company or individual does not actively protect their trademark, after a time it will be considered inactive and will become void. Now, it might just be a starting gun, but it is a “gun.” What happens to Glock if they let this one slide, then the next manufacturer makes a knock off of their design, claiming trademark indifference on the part of Glock, using the blank gun as an example? Do they just hope the judge will decide that this time it didn’t count because it wasn’t a real firearm? That leaves a lot of chance for them to lose a lot of money in the future.

    That said, the lawyers sound like class-A dicks, and I’m not a big fan of Gaston. But if I had a wildly popular product that made me a ton of money, not to mention basically my ONLY product, I would probably jealously defend my trademark too.

    • gunslinger

      i don’t think it’s outrage at glock protecting their product. it’s glock making itself look all evil and mean by the way they are going about protecting their company/product.

      when a corporate lawyer goes off and spouts “i’ll personally sue you” it rubs me the wrong way. as i said in the other posting, from what i read, the guy wants to work things out, and all glock wants to do is squash him down. so, that’s where my rage comes from. legally glock may be in their right, but from a PR standpoint i don’t think they are going about it the right way.

    • W

      “But if I had a wildly popular product that made me a ton of money, not to mention basically my ONLY product, I would probably jealously defend my trademark too.”

      Exactly. that is the principle of the issue. it doesnt matter if their lawyers are dicks or gaston is a dick. that is why i actually agree with glock. If course, its always easier to bash a privately owned corporation.

  • In Physics We Trust

    If you are looking for a squarish slide from front/side/rear and ridges only near the back, starting with the Webley Scott 1910s and 1912s would probably be a good beginning.

    http://world.guns.ru/handguns/hg/brit/webley-scott-e.html

    As I am ignorant of trademark law, could a citation of a design such as this allow continued importation/manufacturing? IIRC regarding patent law, providing prior art like the WS1910 in a similar manner would be a significant boon to the defense.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      Great find! I have updated the post.

    • Sam J

      No such thing as “prior art” in trademark law. Trademark rights begin when you start selling a product with them (“use in commerce”) and end when you stop. An example is “Springfield Armory”. When the government stopped using the name, a company sprung up and took it.

  • lex

    “Glock’s trademark comes down to one thing: a squarish slide”

    Why say this, Steve, when all of us can just read the paragraph you posted? There is a lot more to their trademark than the slide.

  • http://FillYerHands.com Fill Yer Hands

    I don’t blame them one bit. Trademark law is an unforgiving thing. Witness: in the 1950′s and 1960′s, Thermos didn’t pursue companies who used the word to describe their own vacuum bottles, and as a result, the courts ruled the trademark unenforceable.

    Contrast that with Xerox: if you ever use the word “Xerox” as a verb or a noun describing a photocopy in a published work, you will get a sternly worded letter reminding you that Xerox is a registered trademark, and the word you were really looking for was “photocopy.”

    Yes, there is a fine line to be trod in deciding what constitutes an infringement, but if they don’t go after them, they will lose them.

  • hacedeca

    Fact is: Glock was a game changer and everbody tries to copy them.

    Fact is: If their design is not so unique, they will lose their rights.

    Or can’t you trust the American legal system? That would be about politics not firearms…

    • Alex-mac

      Glocks patents on the internal mechanism of their pistol might have expired. (given the number of copies) Which leaves only their trademark and brand to defend.

  • mark

    Large companies like the rogue general to protect their interests, unscrupulous extortion others

  • DJ

    The Colt M1900 shown does not have a slide that is squared-off when viewed from the front or the rear; the top edge is almost a continuous curve, perhaps with a small flat spot near the top-center.

    The MAC10 is not considered a conventional semi-auto pistol shape as it does not have a separate external slide assembly; instead, has a squared-off sheet metal housing which covers and contains the bolt and other moving parts. The top/sides of the housing do not move at all during loading or firing.

    IMO, as previous trademark comparisons, both of these fail miserably.

  • lex

    Does anyone else think its hilarious that they have to specify that they’re not claiming a round barrel as part of the trademark?

    • Nadnerbus

      ha I saw that too. Alternate universe headline: “In a post Glock world, gun manufacturers move to square bullets to avoid Glock lawsuits.”

  • Howa

    They have squandered a great opportunity *and* cost themselves a fortune in bad publicity because they had apparently not heard of the internet.

    They chose to set all the firearm blogs ™ aflame while saving precisely $0.00 in people who bought a blank firing pistol rather than the Glock ™ they were planning to buy.

    Instead, they could have sold an extra million dollars in handguns, plus gotten the same amount of publicity as *positive* comments rather than negative, by just doing a Jack Daniels ™:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/jack-daniels-wrote-what-has-to-be-the-nicest-cease-and-desist-order-of-all-time-2012-7

    • lex

      They didn’t get the blogs up in arms, Maxwell Corp, (a business that directly benefits from getting people angry at Glock) did that. It isn’t really working either. A lot of the comments here are sympathetic to Glock’s position. I haven’t seen so many people on the internet who believe in IP law in my life.

  • mechamaster

    Learn from M 1911 and Hi-Power case.. Nearly identical design, but slightly different internal mechanism, and John Browning never so greedy about patent-milking.

    • omologato

      The Hi-Power was for the most part designed by Browning. He died before finishing it, and his son finished the design IIRC.

    • lex

      Browning was *DEAD* when the Hi-Power came out so it would have been kind of hard for him to make a big deal about it. Browning also designed the gun specifically for FN to sell, he was working for them.

      You couldn’t have chosen a worse comparison if you tried.

  • FailBlog

    Cloners are scum. Every single one I’ve met had this 3rd world street hustler mindset. They’re professional con artists always trying to scam people out of their money. Screw them. No sympathy from me at all. It’s clearly a Glock ripoff.

  • Gir6543

    Steve, I really your blog, I have enjoyed reading it for years. You obviously know alot about firearms. I would appreciate it if you would perhaps contact an IP lawyer and ask if they would give a comment (even if they dont want to sign their name to it). maybe put an open letter out on your website. As much I trust your opinion on firearms, I am not overly eager to follow your opinion on trademarks.I would love to hear what an expert has to say.

  • Jeff

    Even though its unrelated, this reminds me of the patent fued Smith and Wesson had with Colt way back when: They were the first to invent a cartridge loading revolver loaded from the rear of the cylinder but had to pay Colt a royalty because it held the rights to a bored out cylinder.

    • Cymond

      Actually, the patent was held by Rollin White, a private individual who formerly had worked as a subcontractor for Colt.

      not the best source, but a good enough start: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollin_White

  • strongarm

    Trade Dress based trademarks should be;

    - Nonfunctional,

    - Distinctive…

    Glock square look is functional since, ıt works,

    - To lessen the perceived recoil by additional weight added to the
    slide working over an already too light plastic frame,

    - Incidently, saving time and cost of additional machine works to
    round the upper corners.

    It is also not distinctive since, another pistol of just one century ago,
    Webley and Scott Mark1 .455″ Model 1912, had a full square top slide.

  • Ice

    Steve,
    I am disappointed by the apparent editorial bias in your reporting of this story. Your blog is normally a haven for neutral, fact-based reporting.

  • Bob Z Moose

    I’m at a loss for words about how ridiculous this law/whole thing is, so I’m just gonna sit dumbfounded.

  • Jeff

    The Glock’s appearance is quite distinctive. While the descriptors they use (e.g. square shape) don’t adequately express that appearance, most of us here are nonetheless capable of easily identifying a Glock based on nothing more than a quick glimpse from a great distance.

    What I don’t understand is why Glock feels compelled to stop everyone from copying them. It makes economic sense to sue companies who are copying them and taking marketshare from them. But Glock doesn’t make Airsoft guns or BB guns. And part of my selection process for a weapons platform is making sure that I can also find all of the appropriate training tools to complement that selection. Today, that means Airsoft. I want an Airsoft gun that closely copies my EDC gun, so that I can train with it. If there were not good copies of the Glock, I would still be carrying a Sig. Glock benefits from this arrangement.

    I believe that Glock’s early court battles (like the suit against S&W over the Sigma) has left some deep scarring on the company, which has resulted in them being overly sensitive to anything resembling trademark/copyright infringement. They should lighten up.

  • Alex-mac

    Read Africa was importing large quantities of starter guns which they modify to fire real bullets. So this trademark sue isn’t as dumb as it sounds.