Gun-related patents hit a 35-year high

Improvements in magazines, accuracy bolster gun sales nationwide

For better or for worse, guns have been quite prominent in the news the past few years.  With shootings in movie theaters and schools making national headlines, the debate over gun technology has never been more heated. And, with many states considering laws to limit sales or allow for concealed carries, by many measures, sales of firearms are up. 

Part of the reason for this rise in sales comes down to design. Gun makers have focused on technology, improving features to increase accuracy and lower costs. At the heart of this – or any – technological movement is a host of patents.

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, there have been 6,077 gun-related patents registered since 1977, 19 percent have come in the past four years, with a record 370 issued in 2012. And not all of the patents have been simple redesigns to stocks and barrels. Recent patents have included voice-command shooting capabilities, improved scopes and trigger systems and technology separate from the weapons themselves, such as holsters to attach to a person’s legs or next to a bed.

While patent litigation in the technology space has snagged the lion’s share of the headlines recently, the firearms industry is not immune to such activity. For example, in April, Browning Arms Co. sued Sturm Ruger for infringing on a patent for a smaller magazine that helps improve accuracy. Another case involves Smith & Wesson accusing Plinker Arms LLC of copying its patent for a low-cost AR-15 rifle magazine. Many of these patent disputes have been resolved quickly – far faster than similar disputes in the hi-tech field – and have resulted in licensing agreements.

According to Bloomberg, patenting new technology is a business imperative for many gun makers, including Sturm Ruger, which plans to make a core business strategy of introducing innovative designs.


For the latest news on the patent battles in the technology space, check out the following stories:

IP: 3D Scanners, IP issues with additive printing’s companion technology

IP: Medtronic, Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corporation poised for a reversal

FindTheBest slays a patent troll

Final total reached in Apple/Samsung dispute

Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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