Battle of the Giants – Browning Sues Smith & Wesson Over Rotary Magazine

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Typically, the larger companies do not file intellectual lawsuits with one another for a myriad of reasons.  Both, typically with competent and expensive attorneys, find it prohibitively expensive to defend intellectual property against a similarly sized opponent. This, of course ignores the marketing side of it which is typically never positive.

As such, lawsuits are typically only used in a strategic sense or in a tactical one where the outcome is almost certainly victory. As such, the recent filing by Browning to defend a rotary magazine patent is an interesting development.

The patent in question is 8,745,912, which covers a rotary type magazine. Its substantially different than the 10/22 magazine, which uses a formed cylinder. Instead, Browning’s patent covers the use of a single paddle to follow rounds through a track inside the magazine. Its a nifty solution, considering the magazine can be machined or molded to easily handle rimmed cartridges.

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The magazine design is oriented for bolt-action rifles, of which Browning contends that Smith & Wesson is infringing on the design through their subsidiary, Thompson Center. Specifically, Browning asserts that the Compass Rifles, released in early 2015 use Browning’s design.

As per usual with intellectual property suits, Browning is asking for unspecified damages.

This will be interesting to follow. With big lawyers and big budgets, it could either get nasty if Smith & Wesson determines it has not infringed or gets quietly resolved behind closed doors if they determine their application does infringe (or at least its less expensive to settle than fight).



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • Hank

    Looks a lot like the Ruger American magazine.

    • Uncle Festet

      Not even close.

  • Ruger should sue them both to STFU.

  • BattleshipGrey

    Their suing over a three round magazine? Are they preparing to cash-in in case Hillary wins?

    • flyingburgers

      You’ve never hunted, have you?

  • Tinkerer

    The 1940’s called. They want their Johnson Rifle magazine back.

    • AD

      Exactly what I though when I saw this.

    • BigR

      The rotary magazine may be the cat’s meow, but the Johnson rifle was a POS, from what I heard from WWII vets that had been issued one!

      • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

        Wait… you know WWII vets that were issued Johnson rifles? And it was terrible? Huh. Wonder if it has something to do with the recoiling barrel and the inability to mount bayonets.

        • BigR

          I think it was both! But the Marine I knew that was issued the Johnson passed away about a year ago at 92 years old.

  • Just say’n

    Browning isn’t THAT big, more of a David vs. Goliath match-up.

    • flyingburgers

      Herstal Group is twice as big as S&W, not to mention that they’re 100% owned by the Government of the bottom half of Belgium.

      • Just say’n

        Oh, didn’t realize it was actually FN suing S&W, in effect. By “David and Goliath” I was comparing the volume of firearms sold lately by Browning vs. S&W.

  • iksnilol

    Hope they make a version that can be loaded from an angle or the side. So that you can use stripper clips while having a scope on.

  • TechnoTriticale

    Big Industry™ firms usually don’t sue each other over patents, because they usually have broad cross-licensing agreements. When a suit happens, there may be some subtext afoot.

    This could all just be negotiations. Perhaps CT, now a division of S&W, just cancelled some laser product that Browning was counting on (but didn’t have a contractual commit for).

    I’ve not studied this patent, but if this is a plain old fashioned patent dispute, I won’t be surprised if it ends up invalidated by the prior drum or rotary art that I’m sure S&W lawyers are digging away on now.

  • Evil13RT

    Seems stupid, but maybe they deserve it.

  • JoshCalle

    That looks exactly like the magazine for the Ruger American rifle, it’s just a single paddle-follower like that.

    • Tim

      Also very similar to my Ruger 77/357 magazine.

  • ostiariusalpha

    “…patent covers the use of a single paddle to follow rounds through a track inside the magazine…”

    You mean the way a Krag-Jørgensen rifle does?

  • John

    It will be a case of “give us $5 for each gun you sell with this mag and we’ll call it good”.

  • Mihoshi

    Steyr wants to talk to Browning about why they think they could patent the SG-69 magazine.

    Seriously, Browning did not exactly invent the wheel here. If S&W doesn’t win this one they’re asleep at the wheel.

  • gunsandrockets

    Browning holds that magazine patent? That’s interesting.

    Because I just double-checked the magazine of my Ruger American bolt-action rifle, and it looks exactly like that patent design. Does Sturm-Ruger pay royalties to FN Browning?

    • iksnilol

      Ruger gives absolutely no ducks at all about patents or other IP. Just look at their relationship with kel-tec.

  • Marc

    This is a Steyr-Mannlicher magazine from the late 1960’s, itself an evolution of the (Mannlicher-)Schönauer magazine introduced in the year 1900. Does the US patent office not check patent applications at all?

    • Pastor Dan

      No, you see, this one unwinds clockwise.

      • CountryBoy

        Turn it around.

        See, it unwinds either way!

    • efred1

      Nope.

  • Gary Kirk

    Fing Mossberg, see what they’ve started.. Now everyone is gonna start this crap

  • Joe Schmo

    Well Smith and Wesson just bought a couple companies for a lot of money, hopefully they have some millions left for this case.

  • Kivaari

    Doesn’t this say “rimmed” cartridges? Item #68 appears to be a guide for the rim on rimmed cartridges.

  • Oldtrader3

    So, Browning is going to destroy their financial health by suing S&W. This sounds like something only a Belgium born idiot would think of?

  • mazkact

    Otto Schönauer …., Schonauer……… Schonauer……… Schonauer………

  • BigR

    Don’t patents have some sort of time limit, before others can copy it? It’s kind of like pharmaceutical companies manufacture a product, and they give it a company name, and the when the patent runs out, the bathtub houses make the same product, and use it’s generic name. Like when Ambien was invented and the patent ran out, other companies started making Ambien and called it by it by its generic name, Zolpidem Tartrate at a much lower price.

    • Uncle Festet

      Yes. Patents expire.

      But, companies with good R&D operations work to maximize patent protection by adding new innovations to the original invention. If the new innovation is patentable (and better), the original patent can effectively extend the patent.

      Example: some of the original mobile phone patents have surely expired by now. But, companies like Apple have new patents to protect their current products.

      I would bet the modern “rotary” magazine has very few parts in common with the Savage 99’s 115+years old design.

      • BigR

        That makes sense to me Unc! By the way, I just bought my first Apple computer!

      • iksnilol

        I bet old rotary magazines were made of mystic substances called “metals”.

        • uncle fester

          True.

      • gregge

        When Prilosec went off patent, the manufacturer tweaked the molecule a tiny bit, called it a ‘new’ medication and named it Nexium.

  • HPoster

    Maybe there was a relevant employee that jumped from Browning to S&W and that’s what kicked over the hornet’s nest?

  • Uncle Festet

    Could you provide a link to the Complaint?

    Btw – patent litigation is not always that expensive. For companies the size of FN & S&W, suits over small parts are probably a routine expense considering that patents and trademarks are an enormous part of their business.

  • gregge

    Say what? Savage had a 5 round rotary magazine all the way back in 1899.

  • durabo

    Didn’t Glock sue S&W a few years ago for infringement of the striker-fired “safe action” design?