"...Sako L61 and L579 rifles were Howa creations."

Discussion in 'General Sako Discussions' started by RangerAV, Nov 28, 2020.

  1. RangerAV

    RangerAV Well-Known Member

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    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020

  2. kevinlg

    kevinlg Well-Known Member

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    This oughta be GOOD!!!! :) :)
     
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  3. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    Yeah, I saw that quote. I'm sure that the author is embarrassed by it because it smacks of a sentence or paragraph shortened by an uninformed editor which changes its meaning from that which the author intended to convey. This happens to writers all the time when editors are trying to fit an article into space limited by layout and advertising. Rifle magazine deserves an earful on this one since it is printed information like this which creates misunderstandings and generates erroneous information which has a way of becoming accepted history.

    It is fairly well known that Howa copied the Sako L61R action for the "Golden Bear" model (chambered only in .30-06) that they sold briefly in the 1960's. They also made a very few "short action" Sako near-copies chambered for .308, but the actions were the same diameter as their L61R copy (not smaller like the L579), and the magazines were about .20" longer than the L579.

    There has been some speculation that some parts for Sakos sold in Australia were made by Howa, or that Howa contracted to supply some parts to Sako in Finland. This is simply speculation based on limited circumstantial evidence and no documentation or even verbal history has ever been brought forward to verify it.

    Mysteriously, the Howa 1500 is often referred to as being very close to the original Sako actions, and some have even erroneously said that stocks will interchange. Well, the Howa 1500 has a bolt with two forward locking lugs and a handle which turns it. Outside of that, I don't see all that much sharing of parental DNA. On the other hand, the Golden Bear was an almost identical copy of the L61R, and most parts would interchange.

    A while back I sent an email directly to Howa asking about the Golden Bear and patent infringements which may have forced it off of the market. I got back an incensed reply that said that Howa would NEVER infringe on anyone's patent, but made no comment about the Golden Bear. I suspect that there is no institutional memory remaining at Howa of this rifle since it is nearly 60 years since they were manufactured and distributed.
     
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  4. kevinlg

    kevinlg Well-Known Member

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    I told ya so.......!! :) :) :)
     
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  5. RangerAV

    RangerAV Well-Known Member

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    Just thought it'd be good to stir the pot...

    :)

    -Chris
     
  6. icebear

    icebear Sako-addicted

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    That's a charitable explanation. I don't know anything about Meitlin, but in my experience, many if not most gun writers peddle a lot of nonsense they heard 20 years ago in a bar as gospel truth and don't know half as much as they think they do. They also mostly can't write, and wouldn't dream of using three words when ten will do. Now a lot of editors are just as dumb as the writers, and they have been known to make stupid changes that make a sentence mean the exact opposite of what the original said - but having spent a lot of time writing and editing the equivalent of news articles, that one looks to me like it came from the writer. For an editor to flip "Howa copied Sako" to "Sako copied Howa" in the editing process would require not only ignorance, but criminal sloppiness and/or a lack of basic literacy. A fubar like that undermines the credibility of both the writer and the magazine, and that sort of thing is the reason I no longer subscribe to gun magazines.
     
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  7. wombat

    wombat Well-Known Member

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    Good one Icebear.
    I used to buy Hunting/shooting magazines in 80’s and early 90’s....
    Then I was at a gun show in Melbourne and there were 2-3 regular writers there on some of the stands, and after a “couple “ of minutes listening to them talk to
    People, just dribble, to be polite, from then on I stopped buying Hunting/shooting magazines!!! To this day.
    One of writers there had recently, at that time taken a good Sambar Trophy, and I found out
    From someone “in the know” that a local farmer (about 1.5 hrs. From where I live) had taken the writer ( and the writer at that time was a guide ) out to spot light the Deer behind his farm to should it at nite!

    Pretty much a reflection of the mainstream media in general, I might add!

    Stay Safe - to all.

    Jay
     
  8. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Right on icebear!! I haven't subscribed to or read a hunting or shooting magazine for 40+ years for exactly the reasons you invoke. It's beyond reason what they get away with & still make money.
     
  9. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    My wife accuses me of hardly ever being charitable. I'm going to show her this. Thanks for the character reference, Icebear.

    For some reason (inertia mostly) I still subscribe to Rifle and Handloader. The most recent issue of Rifle took me about seven minutes to read -- twice. But pondering over the quote in question took up about four of those seven minutes.
     
  10. caberslash

    caberslash Member

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    Well, the way the bolt cocks, the camming surface and cocking piece arrangements along with disasembly method are very similar, alomg with the three action lengths etc.

    But as you say, a hunting rifle is just that, they don't deviate too much from each other and those that do are rarely successful.

    I for one am quite happy that Howa updated the old Sako actions after they were abandoned. Would have preferred that they kept the Sako dovetails but that's about it!

    Unfortunately, I have seen Howa's quality go back and forth, especially on the blued models. Some are nicely finished but others a little rough by comparison.
     
  11. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Nothing could be further from the truth! The old Howa Golden Bear was nothing more than an exact copy of the Sako L61R & a blatant violation of patent rights. The other & current Howa models have no similarity to or are they an updated Sako in any way. Where you got this completely false information is a mystery to me. Can you back it up with fact &/or evidence?
     
  12. icebear

    icebear Sako-addicted

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    What features were patented? The only unique feature I can think of on the Sako action would be the dovetail scope mounting, and I'd think that patent would have expired by the time Howa issued its copy. Something novel about the #4 trigger, maybe? Did Sako ever accuse Howa of infringement?
     
  13. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Patents can be for different lengths of time & vary country to country. In the US they could be up to 27 years, so it is very possible that any patents Sako had were still valid in the 1960's. Howa stopped making the Golden Bear for a reason and as stonecreek eluded to in a recent post, the Japanese are very defensive & get very angry when the subject is brought up. Look what "Bofors" & Weatherby did to Sako over "infringements" on a stamping & the angle of a whiteline spacer. I'm not an expert on patent law or know all the details(maybe others here can enlighten us), but the point of the post was to refute the claim that somehow Howa was connected to or "carried on" the Sako action design & I assumed, as many others have suggested, that Howa stopped making the Golden Bear because of "threats" over infringement. Based on what we do & do not know, the how & why of the Sako/Golden Bear saga may never be fully explain. Regardless, anytime you make an exact copy of someone else's product you are probably going to have legal problems.
     
  14. icebear

    icebear Sako-addicted

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    I agree completely with your point that Howa was not "updating old, abandoned Sako actions" but making a blatant knockoff. However, I have never seen or heard anything about Sako complaining of patent infringement (or trade dress, for that matter). If there was, in fact, an intellectual property issue, I'd be very interested to see exactly what it was. As far as the Weatherby and Bofors disputes go, both of those involve trademark/trade dress issues, not patents. Bofors was well within its rights to demand that Sako stop stamping its name on barrels if there was no licensing agreement in force. It does seem a bit odd that Bofors would complain about free advertising, but corporate legal departments see things differently. The Weatherby complaint about the slant on the forend tip was garbage, but Sako likely found it cheaper to change its design than to get in an expensive court fight in the U.S. Courts are notoriously unpredictable in such cases. Sako could easily have lost, even though the complaint was frivolous. Getting in a public battle with the "great" Roy Weatherby probably would also been bad for Sako's image in the shooting community.

    As head of the commercial unit at the American Institute in Taiwan (equivalent to an Embassy) in the early 1980's, I was the U.S. government's point man on patent and trademark protection in that country. This was when Taiwan was a major source of infringing products, and I'm proud to have been responsible for some actions that helped turn that situation around. I'm no lawyer (thank God), but I am fairly familiar with intellectual property law.
     
  15. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    As I recall, the Golden Bear was marketed in the U.S. around 1965-66, give or take a year or so. The first of the L61R's were shipped in June of 1961, so patents (if any) which might have been in force for the L61R would have been quite fresh and far from expiration.

    Obviously, a manufacturer can't patent a long-existing feature like the "Mauser" turnbolt concept or the staggered magazine. But things like possibly triggers, novel extractors, non-rotating bolt guides, and scope mounting dovetails might have been patented. And the overall conjoinment of patentable features into a rifle might well make the entire package effectively covered by patent (?).

    At any rate, we know that the Golden Bear (right down to its name) was a knock-off of the L61R and that it quickly disappeared from the market. It is possible that its sales didn't justify its continued production and it was discontinued for financial reasons. But why go to the expense to re-tool to produce the 1500 if you were already set up to make the excellent Golden Bear? Wouldn't it make more sense to keep producing a copy of one of the world's great rifles instead?

    That the Dickson-Howa Golden Bear (never had a clue where "Dickson" came from) was so short-lived certainly gives credence to the theory of its demise being due to patent or intellectual property infringement; too bad that whatever institutional memory of what went on over a half-century ago has apparently completely faded.
     
  16. icebear

    icebear Sako-addicted

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    We are dealing in pure speculation. I have never seen any evidence or documentation that Howa was ever accused, formally or informally, of infringement of patent or trade dress, or that any feature of the L61R was covered by a patent in the mid-60's. If the dovetail scope mount (the only truly unique feature that I am aware of) was patented, a 27-year patent from 1946 would have been valid until 1973 - but I've never seen any mention of a patent in Sako's ad copy or anywhere else. The same goes for the non-rotating bolt guide; I don't know if that originated with Sako or not. It may well be that there was some obscure prior art that rendered the designs ineligible for a patent, or Sako may not have thought it worth bothering. A quick Google search for "Sako patent" produced nothing relevant. I'd be most interested to see any record or documentation of either Sako patents on its early designs or an intellectual property dispute with Howa.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
  17. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    Admittedly. Speculation, based on the scant evidence and circumstances, is all we've got to work with.

    There was clearly some kind of relationship, whether legitimate or otherwise, between Sako and Howa at one time. Howa produced a near-exact copy of a Sako rifle, and I've got two of them (had four at one time) in my safe to serve as physical evidence. I've also got magazine ads for the copied rifle from the 1960's in my archives. Howa quit making that rifle shortly after it was introduced, but soon after started making a different, but similar, bolt action rifle.

    None of us have been able to find just how and why all of this took place, so we can only draw inferences from what little we know. It makes some sense that an infringement was involved, but there could have been other reasons. Maybe someday some more concrete evidence will turn up, but in the meantime we're left only to speculate.
     
  18. icebear

    icebear Sako-addicted

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    Precisely.
     

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