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View Full Version : Engraving lighters illegal?



Ken Smith
08-09-2010, 5:56 PM
I get asked to print on lighters from time to time, so I asked Zippo whether they offered sublimation blanks. This is the response that I received directly from one of their district managers....

You asked, "does Zippo make a sublimation ready lighter so that small shops can print custom designs?" Unfortunately, the answer is "no." Zippo does not want any customization done outside of the factory in Pennsylvania. We do have a very extensive customizing department at the factory but we insist on all work being done at the factory so all customization passes factory quality control standards. To do customizing on Zippo products after they leave the factory is illegal.
I asked for further clarification specifically with regards to engraving, to which his response was....

"Local engraving of personalization (names, ititials, etc) is fine but after-market (non-factory) engraving or imprinting of designs and artwork is illegal."
In an effort to gain further understanding, I've provided him with a real world scenario where a groom wishes to provide his groomsmen with 10 lighters that are embellished with his family's coat of arms. Would having my local laser engraver mark them be illegal? Still awaiting their response.

I've also asked him to provide the legalese around their policy, and to specify which laws would be broken. If received, I will share it.

Just passing along some interesting information.

:confused: :eek: :mad:

K

Dan Hintz
08-09-2010, 6:25 PM
<chuckle> Sounds like an overzealous legal department. No, it's not illegal... once you purchased them, you can etch them in any manner you want. Apple, for example, says the warranty "may" be void, and they flat out tell you if an etched product comes in they won't return the same on... but it's not illegal.

Joe Pelonio
08-09-2010, 6:34 PM
They just don't want the competition, as long as you don't apply a copyrighted image there's no way they can enforce that. If it were truly illegal they would have cited the applicable law. The most they can do is to invalidate any warranty on their product if engraved by someone else.

Martin Boekers
08-09-2010, 6:43 PM
Hmmmmm I wonder if telling one that something is illegal when it isn't, just to try to intimidate them, as a veiled threat, is illegal in itself.:cool:

Marty

Lee DeRaud
08-09-2010, 6:52 PM
Hmmmmm I wonder if telling one that something is illegal when it isn't, just to try to intimidate them, as a veiled threat, is illegal in itself.:cool:Almost certainly...but good luck doing anything effective about it.

Mike Null
08-09-2010, 7:11 PM
I question the entire statement you received from the person at Zippo. They have a number of engraver/distributors and distributors who sell to the engraving industry.

Engraving Zippos goes back to pre-WW2.

They do customize for clubs and organizations but that's not the same as personalizing.

Ken Smith
08-09-2010, 7:22 PM
I figured as much. I was really surprised by their response. I mean, they are such a highly respected U.S. company. Their response reminded me of that thread where someone from another overzealous company said it was illegal to experiment with homebrew marking compounds. Yeah, right.

It's sort of like Hanes saying you can only monagram their t-shirts, not screenprint them, because it would compete with them. Or, as if Harley Davidson said only they could customize one of their bikes. Ridiculous.

K

Kathy Madan
08-09-2010, 7:25 PM
We have engraved Zippos for over 20 years now. Now they probably aren't going to track me down all the way out here, but I have never had an issue. I have sent some back for warranty work and they will often replace, rather than repair and I have had to re-engrave for some customers. Never once have they ever indicated I was being "illegal". What a crock.

I am sure they just don't want you producing quantities of a design on their product and selling it.

Ken Smith
08-09-2010, 7:29 PM
I understand the difference. Zippo is saying that personalization is OK. But, that customization is not.

So, what about when a club or organization asks an engraver for 100 lighters marked with the club's logo (copyright approved). And, they have the intent to sell them as a fundraiser. Is it OK to take the job? Zippo is saying no.

K

Dan Hintz
08-09-2010, 8:02 PM
Zippo can not specify how, when why, or how you engrave and sell their lighters. The only no-no is modifying it and selling it as a Zippo... they don't want people to get hurt and incorrectly blame Zippo.

Frank Corker
08-09-2010, 8:06 PM
They must be after every engraver who has ever lived! What a crock.

Ken Smith
08-09-2010, 9:03 PM
I've asked the contact at Zippo to join the Creek and weigh in directly on this thread.

K

Greg Bednar
08-09-2010, 10:33 PM
Ooh Oh! I hope nobody gets a spanking! Well over 400 million Zippo lighters produced. I would think the company would be honored engravers and craftsman would want to embellish a Zippo which seems to be the de facto lighter of preference in the known universe. I sincerely hope this doesn't turn into some kind on Zippogate.

Rodne Gold
08-10-2010, 4:01 AM
Well , let me tell you , strictly speaking the using homebrew compounds like plaster of paris is in breach of the patent that cermarl/thermark hold and that is using any compound and a laser to mark a metal/glass/whatever object. Check the scope of the patent.
You can sublimate ANYTHING btw - all you have to do is apply a polyester coating or any other coating that accepts the inks - we used to do it here but it became a schlep.

Andrea Weissenseel
08-10-2010, 4:13 AM
I am sure they just don't want you producing quantities of a design on their product and selling it.

That's what I think too. It's a big difference if you offer ready engraved lighters (which you can't) or customize them for your customers - I'm not a lawyer, just MHO.

Other than that, if companies act like this, I go by my Grandma's saying "other mothers have pretty sons too" :rolleyes:

Andrea

Bill Cunningham
08-10-2010, 11:24 PM
I would send another email to the Zippo guy, and say "OK never mind, problem solved, seeing I can't use 'Zippo's' I just imported a thousand Zipo's from a Chinese manufacturer". :D

Gary Hair
08-11-2010, 1:33 AM
It's a big difference if you offer ready engraved lighters (which you can't)

Says who?

That would be like Daltile telling me I can't sandcarve their tiles or Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, etc., telling me I can't put a new radio in "their" car. When I buy it, it's mine to do with as I please.

I'm not jumping on you, just curious how you came to that conclusion.

Gary

John Noell
08-11-2010, 2:38 AM
FWLIW - I once had a lawyer call and threaten me up one side and down the other. (He was trying to recover equipment that I had been given on my termination from the company the lawyer was representing.) He swore he was going to have the DA prosecute my for grand larceny etc. etc. In a panic I called my lawyer who laughed and laughed. Bottom line - any lawyer can lie and threaten you with bogus ramifications. There is NO law against lying. If you are sucker enough to believe them and give in to their threats, you have no case, unless they did it for personal gain - and even then it is unlikely you would prevail.

Andrea Weissenseel
08-11-2010, 4:22 AM
Gary, you are right and you should have quoted my full sentence ;) - to better explain what I mean.

That was an information I got from a large motorcycle company - let's call them "Barbuzi" (I always wanted to ride a Barbuzi :D) Barbuzi is selling pretty, printed and embroidered T-Shirts and whatever else, but also blanks. You are not allowed to use their blank T-shirts and print etc. whatever on them, and still sell them as Babuzi shirts because customers might think they are ready made Barbuzi's. What you can do is, sell Barbuzi blanks and customize them on demand of you customer who bought them. It's like cooking, sometimes it matters in which order ingredients are added.

So it's like you said - once you buy something you might do with it whatever you want to, if it's for your personal use.

Andrea
(still not a lawyer:))

Dan Hintz
08-11-2010, 7:24 AM
There is NO law against lying.
That's not quite true, either. I once had a company issue a veiled threat to me, saying their product was patented. So I did a little research... turns out, it was patent pending, and if you do a little reading on USPTOs website, claiming and/or marking your product as patented when it's not is a no no.

Besides, I have dated engineering notebooks, online threads for forums such as these, etc. where I designed it years before they did (in fact, the original owner of the company was actually ordering some of my parts to use in his design). I didn't bother patenting it because it turns out there were others who had the same idea years before me.

paul mott
08-11-2010, 8:04 AM
If you Google "engraved Zippo lighter" there are a shedfull (or two) of businesses selling these genuine Zippo's (also some selling the copies) engraved with a standard logo or design / text to your choice.
Most of the businesses, but not all, seem to be here in the UK - Is the law different on this side of the pond or are we just too far away for Zippo to bother about, I wonder ?.
Some of these businesses are quite large, well established and have been trading for many years. So - If it is illegal why don't Zippo do something about it ?.

Paul.

Mike Null
08-11-2010, 8:21 AM
This is a lot of to do about nothing. Zippo will be happy for you to do anything you want to their lighters as long as you don't tamper with the way they work or use their logo without permission.

Martin Boekers
08-11-2010, 11:11 AM
Just another overzeleous customer service rep that probably misunderstood company guidelines.

I hope that Zippo comes onboard at the Creek maybe as a sponsor and
donates some free stuff!

I'm surprized more vendors aren't part of the Creek, If I was a vendor I'd
be onboard, what a great way to expand a business.


Marty

John Barton
08-13-2010, 6:40 AM
Once you own a thing then you can engrave on it to your heart's content. In malls across the country there are kiosks who happily engrave anything you want onto Zippo lighters.

I imagine that you can buy plain Zippos all you want to and not worry about it one bit whatsoever.

John Barton
08-13-2010, 6:47 AM
That's not quite true, either. I once had a company issue a veiled threat to me, saying their product was patented. So I did a little research... turns out, it was patent pending, and if you do a little reading on USPTOs website, claiming and/or marking your product as patented when it's not is a no no.

Besides, I have dated engineering notebooks, online threads for forums such as these, etc. where I designed it years before they did (in fact, the original owner of the company was actually ordering some of my parts to use in his design). I didn't bother patenting it because it turns out there were others who had the same idea years before me.

The way they get around this is to claim they made a typo if challenged. They cannot advertise their invention as patented but they can "make a mistake" in communication.

We have run up against this a few times where people will try to intimidate us by saying something is "patented". We say send us the patent so that we can read the content and see if we feel we have infringed it. Most of the time the conversation ends there.

It's very easy for a company to just say that their employee made a mistake. People and companies issues cease and desist or even extortionist letters all the time when they don't have the rights to back them up. A lot of small businesses cave in and stop doing what they are legally allowed to be doing because they get scared of having to hire a lawyer.

My boss is a bulldog when it comes to these things and he won't be be shaken down by anyone. When people come at him with their "patents" then he will make sure that they understand exactly what their patent covers and does not cover.

Dan Hintz
08-13-2010, 8:21 AM
The way they get around this is to claim they made a typo if challenged. They cannot advertise their invention as patented but they can "make a mistake" in communication.

It's very easy for a company to just say that their employee made a mistake.
True enough, but this was stated in emails (which I kept) from one of the co-owners. I don't think a judge would look too kindly on such threats if it ever came to that...

John Barton
08-13-2010, 9:08 AM
True enough, but this was stated in emails (which I kept) from one of the co-owners. I don't think a judge would look too kindly on such threats if it ever came to that...

Maybe but as one who spent $40,000 defending his trademark and only ended up with a cease and desist settlement and no damages paid I can tell you that it's more likely that a judge would slap them on the wrist and tell them to allow their lawyers to make statements about the law.

The legal system is not on your side. The people who prevail are the ones who can make the most convincing argument OR the ones who can hold out the longest, generally.

There is a letter on the net somewhere where Monster Cable did threaten the maker of similar cables with some patent threats but they didn't do enough research to know that the owner of the smaller company was in a previous career in fact a patent attorney. He let them know what they were in for.

And in another case the inventor of those escape ladders which roll up had taken the idea to Kiddie and Kiddie strung him along for months and then at a trade show they debuted their own version. Complete with a picture of his wife on their packaging.

He sued and ran out of money to continue. He found an angel investor to invest in the lawsuit and at the end they won and got a four million dollar judgment. So sometimes the little guy wins but not often.

Dan Hintz
08-13-2010, 10:48 AM
There is a letter on the net somewhere where Monster Cable did threaten the maker of similar cables with some patent threats but they didn't do enough research to know that the owner of the smaller company was in a previous career in fact a patent attorney. He let them know what they were in for.
Yeah, read that one... Monster cable is a complete joke. They were suing the guy for using RCA jacks on his cable ends, claiming they owned the patent to the jacks. Are you freakin' kidding me? Telling someone you owned the patent to RCA jacks, especially when you're not, uhm, lemme see, RCA?! Of course, Monster didn't actually specify "RCA", they just described the RCA-style jack in their patent (and the really sad part is the patent was granted... not surprising, considering the current state of our patent system, just sad). I'll see if I can find the guy's reply, but it was certainly a classic.

Ed Mihalack
08-13-2010, 10:48 AM
Customization of the lighter by American servicemen in WW2, Korea, & Vietnam "made" Zippo a legend. Perhaps the legal department needs to read the history or their company.

Dan Hintz
08-13-2010, 10:54 AM
Ah, here it is... good ol' Blue Jeans Cable (I've purchased from them in the past, good prices):
http://www.bluejeanscable.com/legal/mcp/response041408.pdf

An 8 page response only a (former) lawyer could produce :D

Dave Yanke
08-13-2010, 11:25 AM
The most they can do is to invalidate any warranty on their product if engraved by someone else.

Actually, they can not even do that. Just like adding aftermarket parts to your auto won't invalidate a warranty, neither will engraving. In both case, the work done has to directly impact or cause the failure. See the Magnuson-Mass Warranty Act for more info. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnuson%E2%80%93Moss_Warranty_Act

Joe De Medeiros
08-13-2010, 1:33 PM
I understand the difference. Zippo is saying that personalization is OK. But, that customization is not.

So, what about when a club or organization asks an engraver for 100 lighters marked with the club's logo (copyright approved). And, they have the intent to sell them as a fundraiser. Is it OK to take the job? Zippo is saying no.

K

Customization, to me would mean changing the fit or function of the lighter, engraving, painting or gluing on decals is personalization, or value added. It's none of there business what you put on it.

Robert Walters
08-13-2010, 3:52 PM
Zippo has been hit VERY HEAVILY by counterfeits hurting their bottom dollar over the years.

So they've taken a very aggressive legal approach to anything that might even graze that realm, and have made sure all their employees follow through with that line of thinking, even if it's trivial.

Since they do personalization internally, I suspect that's what you have come across. I bet if you asked them to put it in writing you would get a different attitude =)

Zippo's Lifetime warranty doesn't cover finishes (even if NOT engraved).

When I've sent in lighters to be repaired, they replace the entire insert, re-weld the hinge on the outer case, and ship it back to me.

Bill Cunningham
08-15-2010, 9:35 PM
Ah, here it is... good ol' Blue Jeans Cable (I've purchased from them in the past, good prices):
http://www.bluejeanscable.com/legal/mcp/response041408.pdf

An 8 page response only a (former) lawyer could produce :D


Now that was an interesting read! I'm sure Monster Cable sent him everything he asked for with-in the 14 day period.. hahaha.. Shooore they did!:D

Rodne Gold
08-16-2010, 1:31 AM
Monster Cables are considered lower than a snakes belly by serious audiophiles world wide - they have sued just about anyone using the word monster - including charitable orgs.
Cables themselves are contentious - some spend many $1000's on em and others say they make no difference. Monster , in being so aggressive have lost the high roller market and their products have been relegated to the lower end and far less profitable arena. Bose are similar - considered a joke cos of their litigious manner. No audiophile worth their salt would consider buying either of these products - their abuse of the patent and trademark/copyright/whatever law has hurt their chances of building a respected brand among the trendsetters in the hobby.
As to Zippo - well , I would buy a knock off any day and have , they work just as well at 1/10th of the price - I lose lighters often and would rather lose a cheapy than a genuine way overpriced zippo.

Mark Ross
08-16-2010, 10:59 AM
I awlays had to laugh about the gold connectors both on the back panels of equipment as well as cables. The claims are what they are, but if you open up equipment, it is usually that the gold connector is soldered with a wire, onto a PC board which has copper traces. Yeah...impeadance imsmheadance...

It is low through the cable but at either end (speaker or amp), it basically nullifies any gain you get from "gold" connectors.

Bob Pease wrote some very interesting articles about this in Electronic Design, his column was called pease porridge. Being an electrical engineer, he backed up his disputes with gool old hard data from bench testing.

The old addage about a fool and his money...

Plus, if you have a tin ear, what does it matter?

Lee DeRaud
08-16-2010, 11:56 AM
I awlays had to laugh about the gold connectors both on the back panels of equipment as well as cables. The claims are what they are, but if you open up equipment, it is usually that the gold connector is soldered with a wire, onto a PC board which has copper traces. Yeah...impeadance imsmheadance...

It is low through the cable but at either end (speaker or amp), it basically nullifies any gain you get from "gold" connectors.The benefit of gold connectors is pretty much zero (IMHO) for high-insertion-force connectors like RCA jacks.

What I've noticed is that for things like microphone plugs, the unplated ones (especially in 1/8") tend to lose conductivity, probably from surface corrosion, if you don't rotate or pull/reinsert every couple of days. The most annoying culprit is the cable between my netbook (AKA "SuperPod") and my stereo: it had that problem with three different cables until I replaced it with a gold-plated one (Radio Shack, not Monster :cool:), which has been stable for several months. (Gold-to-gold would obviously be better in cases like this, but I refuse to speculate what kind of cheap stuff is lurking inside the jack of the netbook.)

Rodne Gold
08-16-2010, 1:59 PM
The cable issue has been the source of raging flames in the audiophile community. My take is that moderate spend on well constructed cables is not material when it comes to some system costs , lets say 5% of the system or a little more is not going to matter. The peace of mind is probably worth it.
As to hearing differences with various cables , if you think you hear a better sound thru one or another - then even if its psychoacoustic - it's a truism for the listener and they do get benefit for their money.
Much like spending money on a fine bone china cup cos you swear tea tastes better out of it.

There are unfortunately a lot of snake oil salesmen in the cable world , like a digital cable that had a gel filled casing and another that had led's shine thru a clear gel to improve transmission - offered at $5000 range and so on...

Niklas Bjornestal
08-16-2010, 2:56 PM
I awlays had to laugh about the gold connectors both on the back panels of equipment as well as cables. The claims are what they are, but if you open up equipment, it is usually that the gold connector is soldered with a wire, onto a PC board which has copper traces. Yeah...impeadance imsmheadance...
Isnt the main reason to use gold plated connectors, that they wont oxidize and therefore make better contact. The soldering/wire/copper traces isnt very sensitive to oxidation.

doug king
08-16-2010, 9:58 PM
Whew... now that we have that out of the way.... Where can I order lighters that can be engraved using cermark? Anyone help newbie out?

John Barton
08-17-2010, 6:08 AM
Whew... now that we have that out of the way.... Where can I order lighters that can be engraved using cermark? Anyone help newbie out?

Here? ebay

Maybe here:

http://www.google.com/search?q=wholesale+zippo+lighters&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

Ken Smith
08-20-2010, 7:52 PM
The person that I had been talking to at Zippo told me to contact their head office for clarification on their policy. I chose to go on vacation instead. Ha! I guess they've chosen not to weigh in here directly. Bummer, I love when vendors try to explain/justify policies like this in forums like ours.

Ken