(from Sport Business Journal, April 29, 2013) A hockey fight recently broke out among two competitors, but the catch is that it is off the ice. Executive departments of hockey manufacturers Easton and Bauer entered a skirmish pertaining to Easton’s patented tendon guard.
Last month, Easton debuted the Mako, an $800 skate, named after what is considered the world’s fastest shark.
Before releasing the skate, Easton had about a 5% share in the hockey market. After the release, the company hopes to boost this number to 10 to 15%.
In October 2011, Easton purchased MLX Technology, a skate company owned by Dave Cruikshank, a four-time United State Olympic speed skater and skating coach the NHL. Cruikshank was named Chief of Speed for Easton. Cruikshank worked with technicians to develop the Mako, “the world’s fastest hockey skate.”
“We wanted to out-Bauer Bauer and change the game,” said Duke Stump, Senior Vice President of Culture, Creative, and Brand innovation for Easton Hockey, “skate brands have been doing the same thing over and over again. We’ve created a new paradigm around how a skate should be built and how it should perform.”
Although Easton Hockey claims great innovation with the Mako, Bauer claims it is nothing more than the norm.
“The only thing new is that Easton is certainly charging more,” said Kevin Davis, President and CEO of Bauer Performance Sports, the parent company of Bauer Hockey, “it may be revolutionary for Easton, but it certainly isn’t a revolutionary concept for consumers.”
According to Cruikshank, after investing four million dollars over two years, a priority was to optimize leg extension through changes to the tendon guard. Easton developed the now-trademarked Extendon guard to help with the player’s natural movement.
Instead of Bauer releasing a standard corporate PR statement welcoming the competition, Bauer took a more aggressive approach to discredit Easton’s claims of innovation.
“It’s great that, finally, another skate company has decided to pay attention to what we call ‘dynamic range of motion,’ particularly by changing the design of the tendon guard,” Davis said, “but our first product with this technology came out in 2006.”
Bauer has since filed a case against Easton for patent infringement that neither parties has agreed to comment.