Blog still a shambles? Yes. (Conversion tool… oh, right, I meant to put that up.) Knitting not progressed? Not very much at all. A new story? Perhaps.
Do you know those multicoloured knitting needles–those ones made from a laminate composed of different coloured layers?
Who makes them?
… okay, then. Who made them first?
The fact that KnitPick’s popular Harmony needles, cut on an angle from a multicoloured composite laminate, were preceded by Grafton Fibers’s Darn Pretty Needles is not a new discovery. Grafton (now Dyakcraft) had been selling their needles for a while before they were “harlotted” in mid-2007. Dyakcraft had already been in the business of selling small weaving looms, which they called Harmony Looms, for a few years as well.
Of course, given the popularity of KnitPicks, thanks to their competitively-priced yarn, there are probably a lot of knitters out there who believe that Dyakcraft copied KnitPicks unless they have the opportunity to be put right by others who frequented carefully-curated yarn shops or shopped with artisans rather than mass-producers prior to the introduction of Harmony needles. This sort of mistake on the part of the consumer is not unusual when a smaller producer is outsold by a larger company.
The appearance of the Harmony needles must be of significant importance to Crafts Americana, the KnitPicks parent company. Indeed, last year they filed a U.S. trademark application for the appearance, or trade dress, of their multicoloured laminate needles. They also filed a trademark application (since registered) for HARMONY for use in association with knitting needles…
You know where this is going, don’t you? If you do, your prior education regarding STITCH ‘N’ BITCH has served you well.
Dyakcraft has started two proceedings against Crafts Americana: a cancellation proceeding against the registered HARMONY mark, and an opposition proceeding against the application for the needle’s appearance. You can see the statements of opposition for yourself here:
The story (from Dyakcraft’s point of view) is pretty clearly set out in their opposition to the needles: the sales of Grafton’s “chevron pattern” needles since 2004 in the U.S., the coverage in national yarn trade publications in 2007, the initial contact from Crafts Americana after the needles had been “harlotted” in July 2007, and the offer from Crafts Americana to buy rights in the needle design after the USPTO cited Darn Pretty Needles against them. A copy of Crafts Americana’s proposed assignment and non-sublicensable licence back to Dyakcrafts (permitting them to continue selling their own needles) is even included as an exhibit to the needle opposition.
Some of this information had already been publicized by Dyakcraft already, at least on Ravelry: check out this thread in the bone yard from posts 1617 to 1688. The thread sparked an interesting debate about the realities of supporting small businesses vs. larger discounters, whether KnitPicks “stole” the idea from Grafton Fibers (as it then was), and corporate and individual consumer ethics. Some value judgments were possibly passed based on the poster’s means: if the customer would never have purchased the completely Vermont- and artisinal-made product because of the price, and would only have purchased a product mass-produced offshore because of the lower costs, was there any harm to the artisan?
One poster (maybe presciently) observed that nobody had a trademark on a certain type of wood for making needles. That’s true–it is not the function or the process that is at issue here, since that is not the sort of thing that trademarks protect–but the resultant appearance, perhaps with similar colours in a similar arrangement, is the right sort of subject matter. Are the differences between the KnitPicks needles and the Darn Pretty needles sufficiently distinctive? What impact should the offer to purchase the rights have on the trademark application?
Crafts Americana’s response is due on July 11.