Micromark Ethics?????

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Master Mechanic

I was forwarded a letter directed to the NMRA, about some supposedly unethical behavior of one model company toward another. It was from the new owner of NWSL concerning Micromark cloning several of NWSL tools.

Here is the letter, with no editing. Personally I believe that he should be complaining to MRIA, (Model Railroad Industry Association), instead of the NMRA. What do you think??

"My name is David Rygmyr, I'm an NMRA member, my wife Lynda and I have been in the model railroad industry since 1994, and last year we purchased Seattle-based NorthWest Short Line founded by Fred "Raoul" Martin and a mainstay of the hobby since 1959.

Last year, during the process of moving the company from Seattle to Montana and working through a rough startup process, we had some real difficulty with then distributor Scientific Models, also known to the hobby through their Micro Mark catalog retail outlet. Long story short, SM/MM and NWSL went back and forth on some QC issues on some of NWSL's stalwart tools (our fault, startup related) because of a torrent of complaints leveled by them. We lost a significant amount of money in return shipping charges, repackaging, etc., but our message was constant and firm: Despite the startup issues, we were determined to make things right. We were a bit puzzled, however, because we only had a small number of issues with our other distributors and dealers compared to them. However, we took the issue very seriously and were very clear: We stand behind what we make and would to whatever it took to make things right. Which we did. Then, suddenly, tool orders stopped and there was no further communication.

Not long after, we discovered why: Micro Mark took two of our tools, sent them to China, had them cloned, and released them as their own. Our Sensi-Press became their "Press It" and our Riveter+ became their "Rivet It." Particularly galling was their catalog copy, which in essence said "Made in Asia to our exacting specifications." The backlash from the hobby was fairly intense; both pirated tools were dropped from their next catalog but finally made a quiet reappearance on the back cover of recent catalogs. Legally we had no standing because Fred had never sought legal protection for these tools, and because the tools had already been on the market we could not obtain any ourselves.

Tom and I had words. It did not get ugly; each had our say in the matter. We definitely severed the tie between NWSL and Scientific Models, although their Micro Mark division continues to purchase some of our products through Walthers. (They still carry our Chopper II, and some other parts such as the flywheel and U-joints for their motor are made by us.)

We thought this was the end of it. We inquired about legal protection for our other tools, but again were unable to do so because they'd already been on the market. Considering the uproar from the first go-round, it was our hope that a lesson was learned and that our somewhat unique industry could carry on.

Then, today, we received a most unwelcome Thanksgiving gift:


Those of you familiar with NWSL will recognize their "Chop It" as the NWSL Chopper, the "Sand It" as the NWSL True Sander, and the "Duplicate It" as the NWSL Duplicutter. The sizes, looks, accessories, etc. are identical, although it appears that they cut a few corners to undercut our prices.

My point? A few issues ago in the NMRA's Scale Rails magazine, Tom Picarillo earned his MMR certificate. I shook my head at the time, thinking that MMR's are held to our hobby's highest standards and serve as its finest ambassadors. We are also aware that there is a difference between "illegal" and "sleazy" and that sometimes things fall into the category of "unfortunate." Now, after this second round of theft, I don't know what to say or think. I'd hoped to work through the MMR program at some point myself, although Lynda and I are still working 7 day weeks and it would be a while. Now? I was hoping that you folks, the MMR leadership, could tell me why I might want to do that. We're seriously dedicated to the hobby but it will be a cold day in Hell before I'll be on the same list as Tom Picarillo. Many of you are MMRs--will you beam with pride if Tom is standing with you on the same stage? I know and have had the privilege of working with and learning from several MMRs, and every one of them was 100% about helping others, promoting the hobby, and demonstrating some spectacular work without any expectation of personal gain. Certainly, not one of them would have any notion of crippling one of the "mom and pop" businesses that constitute the majority of our hobby's manufacturers.
Lynda and I would most sincerely appreciate it if this body would examine this situation. As you my have seen, the topic of MMR comes up from time to time on the various chat groups, and sometimes there is some controversy. This controversy is generally about one person's interpretation or perception of another, or other personal-based issues. However, we have never, ever, seen a case where a MMR actively takes (repeated!) steps to cripple the hobby by harming other manufacturers for their own personal gain. As some of you probably know, NWSL is not the only piracy victim in the Micro Mark catalog.

We thank you for your time. Again, Happy Thanksgiving.

Dave Rygmyr
NorthWest Short Line (www.nwsl.com)
Oso Publishing & Evergreen Hill Designs (www.osorail.com)"

Again, I'm just asking for opinions.
I was asked to place this on the forums by an NMRA MMR board member. We both know that the NMRA has no power in these disputes, but he would like to know, what is the opinion of the General Model Railroader. We also know that while legally this isn't wrong, because the previous owner never took any legal safeguards, is it still ethically OK?


I'm Blunt..
Your NMRA board member friend should have just forward it to where it should have gone instead of bring others into this. Seems like the NMRA is using you as a pawn to stir something up, from what you said.

Business is war, any business owner knows this, either it be ethical or just plain wrong


BN Modeller
Well being that I am going thru the whole patent pending thing right now and having already lost one invention to an overseas company I can relate.
Unfortunatley as you mentioned without legal protection and having been on the public market for a period of time I can't see a resolve to this one. Of course every situation has it's unique circumstances.
Ethics and scruples are just a little lower on the totem pole than are dollars and cents, learned the hard way.


Master Mechanic
Your NMRA board member friend should have just forward it to where it should have gone instead of bring others into this. Seems like the NMRA is using you as a pawn to stir something up, from what you said.

Business is war, any business owner knows this, either it be ethical or just plain wrong
No, I'm not a "pawn" in this. I came into this with eyes wide open if you will.

The board member and I have worked together many many times in the past. He isn't a member of this forum and tought it would be "better" if it was presented to the general modeler population here by me, a long time poster, rather than to join and come in with something like this as a first post. That could really skew the perception of this as someone, (the board member), having an axe to grind.

I don't have any axes in my possession at present and like he is, I'm just looking for honest opinions.

BTW, I have bought from both companies in the past and probably will again.
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