SawStop, and their owner Stephen Gass, who happens to be a lawyer, issued a press release about their lawsuit against Bosch. They contend that Bosch, and their new ReaXX table saw, which also features flesh-detection and blade brake technology, is infringing on SawStop’s patented inventions.
This isn’t the first time Stephen Gass and SawStop has sued Bosch and other power tool brands. In recent years, they sued 22 companies, including Bosch and other table saw manufacturers, for allegedly forming a secret boycott of SawStop’s technology. That lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.
Here’s what I have read or otherwise found out about SawStop and Stephen Gass over the years:
First, Gass tried to get power tool brands to license their technology, but they declined to. None of the other brands wanted to pay to implement SawStop’s flesh-detection and blade braking technology into their table saws.
Then, since manufacturers wouldn’t license SawStop’s technology voluntarily, Gass lobbied for federal regulations that would force power tool manufacturers to do so. Here’s a post from 3 years ago, after Stephen Colbert ran a report on Gass and SawStop:
Those forced licensing efforts fell flat, as the regulations were not passed.
Then SawStop sued brands for allegedly boycotting his technology. Sounds ridiculous to me. Hey, because you didn’t pay us to license our technology, we’re suing you for damages. As mentioned above, the suit was dismissed.
Now that Bosch has come out with a competing saw that looks to provide similar end-result functionality – uncut fingers – but in completely different ways, the SawStop litigation machine is at it again.
I’ve tried to be fair, but the more I hear about SawStop and Stephen Gass, the more of a bully and a jerk they seem to be.
In the press release, SawStop’s tone is that of a small company that is being victimized by a much bigger corporation. But is that really what’s going on here?
It’ll be up to the courts to decide whether Gass’s patents are being infringed upon. Patent holders have an obligation to defend their patents – or risk losing them**, but I don’t think that’s quite what’s going on here. It’s hard to say, a much closer side-by-side look at the patent documents and table saw designs is warranted.
**Update: Richard Ahlquist reminded me in a comment below that this is true about trademarks, not patents.
That all being said, if I ever have the space for a full-size table saw, it’ll probably be a SawStop. Maybe. I really wish Stephen Gass didn’t come across as so much of a jerk. There are also downsides to the tech, such as false triggers when cutting woods with high moisture content. Blade brake cartridges are good for one use, and are expensive to replace, as are the saw blades that are destroyed when the brake is activated.
Hmm… if I do buy a SawStop table saw, how much of that money spent will go towards the actual saw, and how much will go towards Gass’s lawsuits and forced licensure lobbying efforts?
But for a portable table saw? I am VERY excited to see the Bosch ReaXX in action. Bosch has a strong foothold in the portable table saw market, one that SawStop doesn’t really have any chance of encroaching upon.
The new Bosch ReaXX saw will have a completely different blade brake tech that will allow for 2 braking events before the cartridge has to be replaced. It also won’t destroy your blade.
What do you think? On one hand I know SawStop is obliged to defend their patent – if they think it is being infringed upon – because you cannot pick and choose which infringements or alleged infringements to protect against.** On the other hand, given SawStop and Stephen Gass’s history, well… I find it difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt.
**As mentioned, this doesn’t seem to be true about patents, only trademarks. Whoops.