Comment: The Patent by Jay Nowman
This was supposed to be printed in Issue 3, but space prevented us.
Streetboarding is, and has always been, under the influence. It is under the influence of a restriction set in motion many moons ago when shoulder pads & Banana Rama were just giving way to day glow & cycling shorts. It was undertaken with motives that are the polar opposite to those who are now in possession of it. I am of course talking about The Patent
The very mention of the word sends groups of boisterous Streetboarders into hushed tones and suspicious glances.
No more, let’s all come out of the patent closet.
We are getting very close to the end of the patent. I’m not going to name dates, I ain’t no toe stepper. If you really want to know, do some research. I have a mate called Google, and he knows everything, I’ll happily put you in touch, he’s always online.
If you are reading this without the faintest idea of what the patent is, I say to you, with my best Italian American accent FUGEDABOIT!
Seriously, it will save you a vast amount brain gigs to fill with new switch ups, handrail approach angles and the like.
The patent castrated Streetboarding at birth. Its seed could never be spread as it should. In the early days of the sport, the patent seriously restricted its growth, its march to man hood. We have had an interrupted evolution.
It must be made clear that I’m not, by any means, pointing fingers at Dimension Streetboards, the current patent holders. In fact they are, and should always be looked upon as, saviours of the sport.
It’s time for a quick history lesson so pipe down at the back! You will be tested later. After the collapse of Snakeboard, the patent (and Snakeboard brand) was sold to a faceless UK toy company. All they were interested in was paper, not the sport. Production of boards stopped, outlook was bleak. In 2001 myself and Brinton Gunderson visited their lair. With cat in lap and cronies surrounding him, the Boss flicked us away with a figure of £1m.
Fast forward a few years and Brinton Gunderson, Josh Mick and Victor Murstig risked personal financial ruin, bought the patent and duly set up Dimension Streetboards. Without them, we would be riding boards made from chopping boards and shopping cart castors (mmm sounds vaguely familiar, we’ll come back to them).
The patent is a curse. I know that all in the sport would gladly get rid of it. For me perfection is a place where you can pay for room with your good looks and 540 tail grab for a pint. Money is a necessary evil. One thing I know however is that many haven’t given a second thought to what the end of the patent will mean. Yeah, amazing; we can all start board companies without paying the licence fee. If you really had wanted to start a board company over the past few years, were really serious and I mean financially serious, no one would have stood in your way. Dimension and Highland would have welcomed you with open arms. In Europe, we have so much to thank Neil Thomson and Highland for. Highland have invested so much into the scene, especially in the UK. Imagine if we had six companies like Highland and Dimension. That would equal six times the investment into the growth of the sport. Highland & Dimension spend a large majority of their profit on advertising; events etc and this would be multiplied by a factor of six. Surely this can only be good for the sport. We are nowhere near saturation point. Our journey in popularity has only just begun. Any new company would not be competing against the established marques for sales, but pushing sales to those new, potential riders, who are out there in plentiful numbers. Imagine what could be done. Now I am going to spell out for you the stark and sobering reason why it needs to be done.
When the patent ends, there is no doubt in my mind that at least two, huge, companies will start producing boards, it’s inevitable. My reason is, in the past few years, there have been many boards on the market that resemble ours, but different enough to evade the patent. No question, they wanted to produce streetboards, but didn’t want to get a licence. Now scour the streetboarding.com forum, and read all the posts we have had about “How come those boards have sold millions, and we’ve sold a fraction of that.” The reason is that those behind those boards are in it for the money. They had a lot of it to spend on marketing, have sold their quotas, reaped their profit, and are now on the search for their next quick buck.
Take one guess at what “product” is next in their sights.
They could easily squash every bit of respect that we have spent the last ten years in gaining with one pinstripe, corporate hellfire cheque.
So in conclusion, what must we do? Firstly, we have to hope that at least one of these big spenders realises that the boards of our backbone companies are far superior than anything they could ever come up with, thus investing in companies that will then spend any profits on growing what we are all about, the sport of Streetboarding.
Finally, we need to ready ourselves. We need to march buff chested into the future. We need to make the voice of our scene so loud that no matter what cheesy, fad ridden marketing campaign they crap out, we cut through it with double backflips, 450 blunts and clean stomped 20 sets.