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Being different...the underdog effect

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I've just got back into the hobby after 30-something years. Way back in the 80's I had Tamiya cars - Super Champ & Hornet. I can remember when the Frog came out and they really whipped my aluminium ingot Super Champ. I bought the Hornet to try to compete, becasue I couldn't afford a Frog. Even then, the $1,000 racing buggies whipped Tamiya cars unless you poured money in. I had to scrimp and save, so I was happy just to have what I could afford. One thing I remember about the competitive buggies was that they looked crap. Sure they were fast and agile, but they looked rubbish - looks weren't important. For me, Tamiya cars have an elegance to their design that none of the other manufacturers have. Kyosho gets close - I have a Mini Z (early 00's MR1) that is quite elegant.

Now I'm back into it, I've bought myself a Neo Scorcher for Xmas. Yep, I know it's not competitive. Yep, competitive buggies with full kit can be $3,000 (AU pesos dollars by the way) but they still look like a whole bunch of bits were put in a box and shaken. The TT02 chassis to me is a work of art; it looks far better than any comparable chassis. To my eye at least.

I used to sail small dinghies - a Mirror. If you know them; they're small, two-person dinghies with a tiny spinnaker, a blunt prow and pretty low performance. You didn't have to be a super-fit Olympic athlete to be good at sailing them, and you didn't have to be rich, either. Not many other sailboats could claim that. Single-class racing with them was a total hoot - really close racing, safe from a collision point of view becasue you would rarely go quick enough to injure or damage anyone or anything (unlike, say 18' skiffs). Just good plain fun - but in terms of a sailing club very much the 'underdogs'. They're pretty little timber boats too.

Back to cars, and ok, yes, I'm a Tamiya fan-boy, so I've got myself a Tamiya car. I can see myself getting a Frog (I always wanted one!) and probably a Hornet, too. Hopefully nearby clubs have a vintage class to race in, and really I'm just there for fun, not glory and riches. :lol: If that makes me an underdog, then I'm perfectly OK with that. It makes doing well a bit sweeter when you can get a placing without having spent a fortune to do it. 

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I'm with you on the 'different' thing.  Got a garage full of old motorbikes.  None of 'em are particularly valuable, or fast, or in top condition, but they're all unusual.  I like turning up to meets on something that no-one else has, and in a lot of cases, have never even seen before.  I'm particularly drawn to stuff that has a poor reputation - when the accepted wisdom is "oh, stay clear of them, they're trouble", I immediately want one.

Same goes for most aspects of my life really.  I have various interests shared by lots of people, but in that field of sheep, I very much want to be the black one in the far corner, facing the other way.

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8 hours ago, c64orinoco said:

I've just got back into the hobby after 30-something years. Way back in the 80's I had Tamiya cars - Super Champ & Hornet. I can remember when the Frog came out and they really whipped my aluminium ingot Super Champ. I bought the Hornet to try to compete, becasue I couldn't afford a Frog. Even then, the $1,000 racing buggies whipped Tamiya cars unless you poured money in. I had to scrimp and save, so I was happy just to have what I could afford. One thing I remember about the competitive buggies was that they looked crap. Sure they were fast and agile, but they looked rubbish - looks weren't important. For me, Tamiya cars have an elegance to their design that none of the other manufacturers have. Kyosho gets close - I have a Mini Z (early 00's MR1) that is quite elegant.

This is an important point to me. In my experience from racing in the 80s and 90s, Tamiya were never really competitive when compared to Schumachers, Kyoshos and RC10s. They weren't considered exactly underdogs either, though, as there was always a steady stream of new drivers turning up every week with their new Tamiya birthday/Christmas present tucked under their arm. Mostly Falcons and Boomerangs early on (our LHS had their go-to recommendations for clueless parents doing the buying), with Madcaps and Manta Rays taking over after they came out. Some only came for a week. Some came back repeatedly. Some came back, traded up and got very good. But there were always a lot of Tamiyas, so they were the norm, not the underdog. If you could beat a Cat with a Boomerang then you were clearly a driver of some talent, but if you couldn't you weren't the underdog, you just hadn't made that leap yet.

The aesthetics were always a big deal for me, though. I went from a Grasshopper to a Kyosho Mid after racing for about a year. I picked the Mid because a) it was competitive and b) it looked good. As good as the chassis may have been, I could never have brought myself to drive a Schumacher or a Yokomo, because they just looked so dog rough. Schumachers in particular did that awful thing of having sticker sheets featuring garish coloured graphics and unconvincing made-up sponsors. Plus their chassis looked like they were made of the plastic used for circuit boards and all the hardware looked like it had come from the fixtures bag for an Ikea bookshelf. Kyoshos looked great with the body on or off. Schumachers didn't even look good with it on. None of which changed how good they were on the track (and they were good), but to me they just... lacked. Plus there were more Cats at our meetings than Mids and I have always been drawn to the unusual. When it was time to get my first 1:1 car, my Dad sourced me a good, solid, low mileage Ford Fiesta. I was, of course, overjoyed to have a car. But a tiny part of me was disappointed as I had been going to ask for a Skoda Rapid, as it had the engine at the back, was cheap, weird as badword and nobody else had one.

I can fully understand the appeal of rooting for a Tamiya when the field is full of faster machinery, though. BITD there was a guy at our local tarmac circuit who raced a Tamiya Thundershot that had been modified to the point of being almost unrecognisable. It had a (presumably bespoke) carbon chassis, various homemade mods to make it a pukka race machine, strengthened gearboxes and even a carbon propshaft. I think the only unmolested original Tamiya part on it was the body. Before the advent of the Egress, I think it had been evolved about as far as it was possible to take a Tamiya. He had probably spent twice as much upgrading it as it would have cost to buy a Schumacher. And it still wasn't quick enough, but I think everyone there secretely wanted it to be. There was so much goodwill for that car and its owner, because we had all probably started off with a Grasshopper or a Hornet or a Boomerang or whatever. And while we had all traded them in for whatever was quick, there was one guy there who'd stuck to his guns, whether through stubborness or just as an experiment, and had thought "Nah, I'm going to make THIS work".

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And can I just put my tuppence in at this point to say that while my racing days are probably over, whatever else I do, I will never buy a Traxxas out of principle. They are a horrible company that frequently use entirely unjustified lawsuits to try and cripple their smaller competitors. Whatever their products may be like, they have done more to limit the scope of the industry by their actions in the last 20 or so years than anything else.

/rant

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18 minutes ago, Yalson said:

And can I just put my tuppence in at this point to say that while my racing days are probably over, whatever else I do, I will never buy a Traxxas out of principle. They are a horrible company that frequently use entirely unjustified lawsuits to try and cripple their smaller competitors. Whatever their products may be like, they have done more to limit the scope of the industry by their actions in the last 20 or so years than anything else.

/rant

Sorry but I think that is a rather naive view of the world.

US law requires companies to defend their IP and copyright, because if they don't, they might be refused it later on for not having been aggressive in defending it. You'll find lots of American companies are like this, Maglite & Harley Davidson to name but two. However if you look closer, you'll also note you never see Maglite clones and copies, nor really anything else quite like a Harley.

Traxxas are doing nothing different to these companies. Because in a way, all of them are victims of the US legal system in how IP & copyright needs to be constantly protected.

I suspect Horizon Hobby have also been party of this too. Because they have to be in order to remain as a viable business. To this end, as Arrma are now a HH company, it would be foolish to not expect similar antics moving forwards from them as well.

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2 hours ago, Losi XXT-CR said:

Sorry but I think that is a rather naive view of the world.

That's just flat-out wrong.

There is a difference between defending your IP – which is part and parcel of doing business in the US and the rest of the world – and trying to claim IP which weas never yours in the first place. What Traxxas has done is patent numerous things that were invented by other people, and in some cases have been standard industry practice for many years, and then sue companies who were using the ideas after Traxxas effectively pulled the rug from under them.

This is simple patent trolling. Traxxas have seen the way the RC industry works, with lots of small players and semi-amateur vendors, and have used this industry structure and their relative dominance in it to enrich themselves and profit from other people's hard work by suing them, taking their money, claiming the idea for themselves and then forcing other companies already using it to either pay them a licence fee or face them in court.

While I accept that a company defending its IP is a just a right thing for it to do in order for it to recover development costs and retain the rights to its own work, there is no moral or legal justification for this at all. It is purely a legal excercise in extorting money from perfectly legitimate companies, as can be seen by the repeated attempts by US governments to eliminate the practice.

The problem with this morally repugnant behaviour is that it stifles development of new products by removing long-established solutions to well-understood problems from the design process. One of the links I posted here refers to a thread about Traxxas's lawsuit against Hobbico/Aarma over a front shock laydown suspension system the latter used in one of their trucks and Traxxas claimed was theirs. The lawsuit more or less bankrupted Hobbico. One issue which arose from this lawsuit was that Schumacher delayed the production and sale of their Top Cat rere, since it had a similar laydown front suspension design and Schumacher were concerned that they would be sued by Traxxas over it. This is despite the fact that the Top Cat was originally released in 1988 and predated both the Traxxas and Aarma designs by several years.

You'll notice that Traxxas also hasn't tried any of this nonsense with Tamiya, as they know that if they did they'd have their sorry ***** handed back to them on a plate.

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3 hours ago, Losi XXT-CR said:

You'll find lots of American companies are like this, Maglite & Harley Davidson to name but two. However if you look closer, you'll also note you never see Maglite clones and copies, nor really anything else quite like a Harley.

There may not be direct Maglite clones or Harley clones, but there are a lot of torches and a lot of low-riding motorbikes with V-Twin engines.

What Traxxas has done is not prevent direct copies of their products (which would be perfectly justifiable) but try and pass off prior art established by other people as their own exclusive domain. It is the equivalent of Harley Davidson trying to patent the idea of motorbikes powered by internal combustion engines, or Maglite trying to patent the battery powered torch. The only reason that they have been able to get away with it is that because of their relatively large market share and market leverage, their opponents in each case have not had the financial resources to face them down in court.

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On 12/18/2019 at 6:31 PM, StrokerBoy said:

when the accepted wisdom is "oh, stay clear of them, they're trouble", I immediately want one.

Which is why my real car is an Alfa!

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On 12/18/2019 at 9:20 AM, Yalson said:

What Traxxas has done is patent numerous things that were invented by other people, and in some cases have been standard industry practice for many years, and then sue companies who were using the ideas after Traxxas effectively pulled the rug from under them.

Which is why this trash company will never see one cent from me. 

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On 12/18/2019 at 5:30 PM, Yalson said:

There may not be direct Maglite clones or Harley clones, but there are a lot of torches and a lot of low-riding motorbikes with V-Twin engines.

What Traxxas has done is not prevent direct copies of their products (which would be perfectly justifiable) but try and pass off prior art established by other people as their own exclusive domain. It is the equivalent of Harley Davidson trying to patent the idea of motorbikes powered by internal combustion engines, or Maglite trying to patent the battery powered torch. The only reason that they have been able to get away with it is that because of their relatively large market share and market leverage, their opponents in each case have not had the financial resources to face them down in court.

I still think you have it wrong. Patents are not awarded randomly or because someone shouted loudly. Therefore if a patent is granted, it was something that could be patented. The patent office can be very tough and will refuse lots and lots of patents. And as for Maglite, you are completely wrong. Show me another torch that looks remotely similar or even a clone of? Or how about another torch with the same focusing mechanism as a Maglite or the same motion control they use on some of their models. They simply don't exist, for the exact same reasons.

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On 12/18/2019 at 5:20 PM, Yalson said:

That's just flat-out wrong.

There is a difference between defending your IP – which is part and parcel of doing business in the US and the rest of the world – and trying to claim IP which weas never yours in the first place. What Traxxas has done is patent numerous things that were invented by other people, and in some cases have been standard industry practice for many years, and then sue companies who were using the ideas after Traxxas effectively pulled the rug from under them.

This is simple patent trolling. Traxxas have seen the way the RC industry works, with lots of small players and semi-amateur vendors, and have used this industry structure and their relative dominance in it to enrich themselves and profit from other people's hard work by suing them, taking their money, claiming the idea for themselves and then forcing other companies already using it to either pay them a licence fee or face them in court.

While I accept that a company defending its IP is a just a right thing for it to do in order for it to recover development costs and retain the rights to its own work, there is no moral or legal justification for this at all. It is purely a legal excercise in extorting money from perfectly legitimate companies, as can be seen by the repeated attempts by US governments to eliminate the practice.

The problem with this morally repugnant behaviour is that it stifles development of new products by removing long-established solutions to well-understood problems from the design process. One of the links I posted here refers to a thread about Traxxas's lawsuit against Hobbico/Aarma over a front shock laydown suspension system the latter used in one of their trucks and Traxxas claimed was theirs. The lawsuit more or less bankrupted Hobbico. One issue which arose from this lawsuit was that Schumacher delayed the production and sale of their Top Cat rere, since it had a similar laydown front suspension design and Schumacher were concerned that they would be sued by Traxxas over it. This is despite the fact that the Top Cat was originally released in 1988 and predated both the Traxxas and Aarma designs by several years.

You'll notice that Traxxas also hasn't tried any of this nonsense with Tamiya, as they know that if they did they'd have their sorry ***** handed back to them on a plate.

Many many patents are owned by people who didn't invent them originally. This is nothing new. And you are really trying to shoot a company down for being clever and seeing an opportunity others ignored. If they hadn't, they might not exist at all today, which overall would make the RC world a lesser place most likely. And seriously if you view is you won't buy anything that a company owns the patent on but didn't originally invent, then I suspect you need to have a really good look at what items you have in your home and car. As I suspect you'd need to bin quite a lot of them if you really want to stand on the moral high ground.

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On 12/12/2019 at 3:00 PM, NWarty said:

Well, I'm transgender. I probably won't have to worry about everyone going trans 

Going slightly off-topic here, but it's long been my hope that the role of 'gender' in society will gradually dissolve until there are no longer gender roles or gender-specific clothing, fashions, language, roles or anything else.  Then we can just get on with being people.

On 12/12/2019 at 5:29 PM, Jonathon Gillham said:

In saying that even though I know that Traxxas is doing a good thing, as for every 10 Traxxas people 1 or 2 will buy a real toy car that they build themselves and has a soul, I still don't get why they start with Traxxas. Theres a good chance those people were never given the skills by their parents though growing up and don't feel confident enough to build a kit first up? Or traxxas have a bigger margin and they are steered towards them by the LHS owner?

I'm kind of surprised by how often I see people from my generation saying they wouldn't be able to build a kit because they don't have the skills.  I do wonder if they ever touched a screwdriver when they grew up.  I get that some things (like ball diffs) require a bit of mechanical sympathy and I understand that some people are neurodivergent to the extent that following the diagrams may not be easy, but I can't accept that assembling a Tamiya kit is not possible for people of average intelligence.  Now I might be being very unfair here, because I (after many years of practice) still can't get the hang of painting bodies, I'll never be any good at running fast, catching balls or singing, things other people are able to do.  But I accept that there are physical differences in my otherwise average make-up that make me unsuitable for those skills, and I (perhaps wrongly) don't accept that there are physical differences in 'average', 'normal' or 'mode' humans that preclude them from assembling Tamiya kits.  So it really must be a confidence thing.

OTOH my wife grew up in a very hands-on household, had loads of support from her dad (who was an engineer), is a keen DIYer, has loads of confidence in cutting / shaping / assembling her own things, and yet she still insists on holding the screwdriver in a side-on fashion that causes it to lean over and chew up the screw heads.  Possibly because she doesn't feel she has the strength in her arms to turn the driver normally..?

Anyway, that's enough of my bigoted and superior views for one thread.  It doesn't happen often, largely because there aren't many things I can feel superior about.

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On a more positive note - I've always loved to be the underdog, and that's possibly why I love Tamiya so much.  I've always loved to take what are essentially flawed models, and see how they can be improved.  10-15 years ago I was largely making crazy hybrids and hopping up entry-level Tamiya kits.  A lot of what I built wasn't very good because I knew what I wanted to achieve but I didn't really understand how to get there.  For a long time I stopped walking that path and started doing other things, but I think 2020 might be the year I go back to making crazy stuff, just because.  It'll never be as fast or tough as a Traxxas RTR, it'll never handle as well as the latest Schumacher, but it'll be different, something all of my own.  OR like as not with plenty of ideas old and new borrowed from all over the web.

OTOH it's sometimes a painful path.  When I went back to touring car racing around a decade ago, I took a TA05-IFS.  I wanted to drive Tamiya in a championship dominated by Losi and Schumacher.  I never, ever got that car to handle right no matter how many setup hours I threw at it, and nobody else could help because they weren't driving Tamiya.  In the end I switched to something else and had more fun.  Vintage buggy racing is a bit different - it's fun to go play with the old Schumachers and Associateds with a heavily-modded (but still vintage-pure) Tamiya buggy.

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On 12/22/2019 at 8:59 PM, Losi XXT-CR said:

I still think you have it wrong. Patents are not awarded randomly or because someone shouted loudly. Therefore if a patent is granted, it was something that could be patented. The patent office can be very tough and will refuse lots and lots of patents. And as for Maglite, you are completely wrong. Show me another torch that looks remotely similar or even a clone of? Or how about another torch with the same focusing mechanism as a Maglite or the same motion control they use on some of their models. They simply don't exist, for the exact same reasons.

Theoretically this is true. Each patent is supposed to go through a research and discovery period, during which patent officers check to see that something similar has not already been patented and is not already in use. Unfortunately, in reality patent offices are massively overloaded with applications and the incentives for patent officers to find prior art are minimal, leaving it to other potentially affected parties to lodge objections during the discovery phase to protect prior art: a procedure which may be difficult if the affected party is not aware someone else is attempting to patent the technology they're already using.

I agree that a laydown front suspension system on RC cars could be a viable patent. The thing is, nobody did patent it. The idea was already out there and Traxxas patented it because they could, as nobody else had thought to do so as the idea was already in use. A patent officer with no knowledge of RC makes a cursory check of the current market, sees there is little or nothing out there using such a system, awards Traxxas the patent at face value and inadvertently bankrupts Hobbico, not knowing that Schumacher had used a similar system years previously. But their car was out of production and existed in the pre-internet era, so little evidence of prior art existed online. Then Traxxas have a patent and once they have it, it is very difficult to have it rescinded without an expensive court case. As Hobbico found out to their cost.

As for Maglite, I'm not entirely sure what the point is you are trying to make. Maglite make very distinct torches, possibly partly protected by patents. This is fair enough, as they may use technology or production techniques which set them apart from the market. I don't honestly know. (I doubt that Maglite copies do not exist – they are almost certainly pirated in China, where there is something of a Wild West atmosphere with regards to 'free world' IP – but most western sales sites will not sell them for fear of being sued under those same patent and IP laws.)

However, I feel you are confusing patents with copyright here. Patents are legal documents giving an entity sole legal domain over and idea or invention. A copyright is the right to sole legal domain over a specific design or brand. You can build a car, as they are protected by prior art. Other people have built and sold cars for over a century. But you can't copy a Ford Mustang and sell it without Ford's permission, even though it's a car, as Ford owns the copyright to the Mustang, most of its distinctive design features and the Mustang brand and history. If you tried to build a direct copy of a Mustang and sell it as a Mustang, you would be guilty of what's known as 'passing off', which is legalese for counterfeiting branded goods.

This is why I brought up the idea earlier of Maglite trying to patent the idea of the battery-operated torch. To do so would be both absurd and unfair, since thousands of other companies already build and sell such torches. This is what 'prior art' means: it's an idea which is either already in use, already covered by somebody else's patent or so obvious that patenting it would be ridiculous. So Maglite have copyright (and possibly patents) covering their distinct types of torches. But they don't have a patent covering battery-powered torches as an idea, or LED battery-powered torches, or torches that look a bit like Maglites or have vaguely similar colours. They just have copyright over the Maglite design and possibly patents on some of their unique design features.

So you can build and sell a torch, as it is covered by prior art. But you can't copy and sell the particular shape and style of torch identifiable as the Maglite.

But what Traxxas have done is patent the battery-powered torch. They have taken their dominant position in a small and poorly resourced market and used it to obtain patents for several broad design concepts, some of which were already in use, presumably without the knowledge of their smaller rivals. The laydown suspension system was one. They apparently also have a patent on the idea of a servo-operated throttle linkage for engines mounted in RC cars, which would suggest at some point they intend to sue every other manufacturer that has ever built an IC-engined RC. So that will be fun.

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On 12/22/2019 at 9:03 PM, Losi XXT-CR said:

Many many patents are owned by people who didn't invent them originally. This is nothing new. And you are really trying to shoot a company down for being clever and seeing an opportunity others ignored. If they hadn't, they might not exist at all today, which overall would make the RC world a lesser place most likely. And seriously if you view is you won't buy anything that a company owns the patent on but didn't originally invent, then I suspect you need to have a really good look at what items you have in your home and car. As I suspect you'd need to bin quite a lot of them if you really want to stand on the moral high ground.

I don't really think that is a serious argument. There are literally millions of patents out there held by people who didn't invent them. Patents can be bought and sold like anything else. Companies can merge, be bought or go bankrupt, while individuals can die, retire, sell their interests, register their patents as part of a partnership or develop patentable work while working as an employee. Things can even be developed by two different people working entirely separately, as happened with Swan and Edison and the light bulb. Patents can also be licensed out, so other entities can use patented technology in exchange for paying a suitable fee to the patent holder. All of these are perfectly normal ways by which patents can end up registered or used by entities that didn't invent them.

However, that's not the same as what Traxxas have done. They have taken previously used technology and said it is solely theirs to use and license. That is not 'clever'. It's underhanded and unjust.

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