The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of Snow Plow News or its related entities.
Why Snow Removal Contractors Care About This Lawsuit
You might not have even heard that two weeks ago a Federal Circuit Court stood by the decision of a 2014 jury trial, but I am going to tell you why you should care. This court case has a long term affect for the average contractor and their pocket book.
First, let us cover some of the details.
The case was a patent suit that started several years ago when Douglas Dynamics (Western Products and Fisher Engineering) filed a lawsuit against Buyer’s Products (Snow Dogg) for patent infringement. It turns out that Buyer’s heavily borrowed from the designs created by Western engineers.
This article is not about them, it is about contractors, so to make a long story short the courts ruled (repeatedly) Buyer’s was found to have clearly infringed on two Douglas Dynamics patents that involved the quick hook-up of the plow to the vehicle and that involved the lighting system.
As we have tracked this case get appealed, the $9.75 million dollar judgment and injunction against Buyer’s in favor of Douglas Dynamics continues to be upheld. Now you might think we would tell the Big Boys to quit their bickering, but it is a very good thing for the contractor that Douglas Dynamics won this lawsuit (and that includes contractors who are Buyer’s fans).
Why this Lawsuit Matters to Snow Removal Contractors
Why is it good Douglas Dynamics won the lawsuit? Because Communism doesn’t work. That’s right, I said communism. Now that your eyebrows are raised and you wonder if I like McCarthy (don’t like Joseph, but there is a Tom I like), let me explain. When pure communism took over in the eastern block countries, it did not take long for people to figure out that it did not matter how hard or how little you work, everyone was rewarded the same.
After a while, the economies of those countries slowed down as the incentive to work hard was not there. Hey, if I get paid as much as Bob, why should I care if Bob works twice as hard?
Now let us come back to those patents. When people “borrow” designs, at first this seems like a good thing for consumers, competition brings lower prices. Yet the people that run companies are pretty smart. If they do not get paid for their work, they will stop working too.
Realize that if manufacturers are not rewarded for research and innovation by getting paid for their hard work, research and development will only be a waste of money. By the way, this is precisely why we have patent laws in this country, to reward people for innovation.
It is About Better Products and Lower Prices
If no one finds a benefit to innovate (because their ideas will just be stolen), no one will innovate. If no one looks at how to make better plows, contractors will only have a choice of the same old plows decades from now.
Not only that, but if all the plows were the same because of “sharing,” the bigger companies would likely pull the “Walmart card” and slash their prices until many of the smaller guys go out of business. You might like the lower prices at first, but you might not like the long term outcome. Remember the lower the competition the easier it is for larger companies raise their prices (which means they get more of your money).
Some have commented the playing field is already getting too thin in this industry, can you imagine what it would be like if we only had two snow plow manufacturers? Their price can go up, their quality can go down, and as long as one doesn’t stray too much from the other, you are stuck, just like the people in many small towns are stuck with only a Walmart in town, and those small town Walmarts can get away with charging higher prices than the Walmart in the big city next to competitors.
Now I am not picking on Buyers Product here. I just wish they had gone to the table and really delivered their fans innovation that surpassed their competition so clearly that Buyers had their own advantage instead of the lawsuit. Instead, when some of the details came to light, at the time I felt I was looking at a “me too” company and not innovators like what Western and some notable others want to be.
Also, no offense Western and the Douglas Dynamics family, but I am glad you won, but for my own selfish reasons. At the end of the day, I am glad it was innovation, free market, and the American Way that has had its day in court and won.
May we all remember to truly be innovators and lead the pack rather than just copying someone else’s hard work. We owe it to everyone in the industry to put our best foot forward, so guys, I am asking you to put your best foot forward today.
What do you think? Join the conversation and make sure you post your comments here or on the Snow Plow News Facebook page.
About the author:
John Smythe formerly was a Lean manufacturing implementer at one of the top snow plow manufacturers. He now works for himself helping small and medium sized businesses strive for excellence.