They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but Shopsmith Inc. wasn't impressed as the Taiwanese clones started to flood our shores back in the 1980's.
The original patents on the Shopsmith Mark V began to expired in the mid-1970's, and by the early 1980's there were several semi-faithful knock-offs being sold in the USA. Most were being made in Taiwan and were sold under names like Total Shop, FUSSO, Enco, Menards, WoodMaster, ShopCenter, MasterShop and Multico (in the UK) to name a few.
of the interesting stories about these tools is that the guy who
shipped-off an American Made Shopsmith Mark V to Taiwan to be copied
wasn't aware that about a half-dozen Mark V's got past the quality
control folks with a slight crack in the headstock casting. Wouldn't
you know that the original clones all had this crack cast into them!
It’s on the front near the headstock lock if you want to locate it, and
I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. I often wondered if they ever fixed this or if they just put Bondo on them before painting.
Besides Johnson Metal and King Feng Fu, the following parties were also named in the complaint:
Before the International Trade Commission was able to rule on a
complaint filed by Shopsmith Inc. in 1982, these parties made an
agreement with Shopsmith that included making cosmetic changes to their
machines, such as moving the on-off switch, cutting openings or lovers
into their legs, etc, and prominently displaying the country of origin,
which was and still is the law of the land.
They also agrees to stop saying such things as "Our machine was designed by the same Engineers as the Shopsmith". Well, of course it was, because you copied the Shopsmith!
The term of the patent is 20 years from the filing date. The last patent that was granted for a Mark V
Model 500, which is the tool that was sold by Total Shop (United Metals Services, Inc. CORPORATION SOUTH
CAROLINA) and several others,
was applied for in 1955, meaning that it was fair and legal to “clone” it as
early as 1975. As several people have
stated on several of the woodworking forums, the Total Shop patent infringement case was over the Biscuit Joiner,
which Shopsmith Inc. applied a patent for in Aug. 1989. That means ANYONE could produce a copy of this
accessory today without fear of infringement. (See actual ad below. Click to Biggie-Size it)
This was obvious to even the casual observer, because the illustration showed the Biscuit Joiner mounted over a ribbed Mark V 510 table. As I already mentioned, the Total-Shop tool was a copy of the 500 and therefore the main table had no ribs or the holes that are clearly seen which are used for mounting the Shaper Fence only on the Shopsmith Mark V, Model 510. Oops! At the time of this infraction, copyright law protected the illustrations for 75 years or for the life of author plus 50 years. Today that coverage is 95/120 years or life plus 70 years.
I was working for Shopsmith Inc. at the time and received a TotalShop catalog at my home. I noticed the copy of the Biscuit Joiner and called Shopsmith’s lawyer, who also happened to be an active student in the Dayton Shopsmith Academy where I was the instructor. He went to work and within a few short weeks he stopped by the shop and said he had something to show me. We went back to the Quality lab and he showed be boxes full of poorly made Biscuit Joiners that TotalShop was forced to surrender. In the end they had to recall all the units they sold, and surrender both the units and the tooling to Shopsmith. I was allowed to take one of the TotalShop units as a reward.
I’ve heard a lot of talk on the forums that this incident was the death-blow for TotalShop, but I don’t believe that this is the case. The incident I describe above happened around 1993-94, but they were still running ads in Popular Science 1996. That’s not to say that this didn’t start the bleeding that eventually led to their sell-off.Click here for Shopsmith-like Clone machines from Total shop.
Click here for Fox and Smithy SuperShop tools for sale
Click here for Shopsmith-like clones from Woodmaster, FUSO, and Harbor Freight (Very light activity)
Click this link to view (and purchase) the Patent Art Print for the SuperShop. Search the term "Supershop".