Vaping Diaries #104: Doc Dave Cloning Controversy
Doc Dave, creator of the popular Steam Turbine atomizer, is angry about Chinese clones of his product. His anger is completely understandable. He worked hard on creating a unique and well-designed atomizer, and is upset that Chinese companies like Hcigar have flat-out copied his design. The Hcigar copy is available for a fraction of the cost of the original and the Chinese manufacturer’s capacity is tremendous; it’s impossible for Doc Dave to match the output and price of Hcigar. As I said, his anger is completely understandable.
Unfortunately, he’s going about his anger the wrong way. Instead of focusing his efforts to combat companies like Hcigar, he’s going after individuals that are buying Steam Turbine clones and people organizing “group buys” for the clones. For those of you not familiar with group buys, they are consumer-initiated purchases where a group of vapers gets products at wholesale prices. Essentially, Doc Dave is attacking consumers.
Doc Dave recently posted that he is, “the legal owner of U.S. Design Patent Application Serial No. 29467157.” While it’s nice to see an American vaping company pursue a vaping patent, it doesn’t mean much yet. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), “Some persons mark articles sold with the terms ‘Patent Applied For’ or ‘Patent Pending.’ These phrases have no legal effect, but only give information that an application for patent has been filed in the USPTO. The protection afforded by a patent does not start until the actual grant of the patent.”
In a Facebook message to an organizer of a Steam Turbine clone group buy, Doc Dave wrote that he filed his patent application on September 16. According to the USPTO, “Currently, the average patent application pendency is 24.6 months.” The letter threatens the organizer with legal action if he continues with the group buy. You can check out the threat below.
Forget that Doc Dave is using a patent application and not an actual patent to back his threats. Forget that it will likely be more than two years before the patent is granted, if it’s granted at all. What’s alarming is that Doc Dave is attacking consumers. Never mind that some of them will never purchase an authentic Steam Turbine because of the cost. Never mind that some of them want to experiment with an inexpensive clone before committing to a real Steam Turbine. An atomizer creator picking on consumers is straight bullying.
Due to Doc Dave’s threats, some Steam Turbine-clone group-buys are in disarray. Some organizers are afraid of the threats and have group-buy participants that are afraid to pay. Remember, organizers of group buys aren’t stores or corporations. They’re people that are trying to help other people save money on vaping products. Perhaps I’m being naive or I’ve just had extraordinary luck in group buys, but in my experience most organizers aren’t doing this to make a buck. They’re doing it help people stick with vaping and stay away from smoking.
The Doc Dave situation reminds me of the Style of Mojo situation. In both cases, the creators are attacking consumers instead of the companies that are copying their products or retailers selling these copies. That’s just misguided. While fans of these companies applaud the bullying tactics, it turns off many potential customers. It’s just bad business and doesn’t address the real issue — the Chinese companies that are leeching off creators’ product designs. Perhaps Doc Dave and Style of Mojo believe that pursuing legal action against large Chinese companies is an expensive venture that would result in nothing, but does that mean that they should lash out at consumers instead?
I simply don’t see why Doc Dave and Style of Mojo are taking their (again, totally understandable) frustrations out on consumers. What good does that do? It makes them look like bullies, kills some potential sales, and encourages some people to buy clones as retaliation. If you can figure out their actions, please explain it to me in the comments section. It just doesn’t make sense to me.