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Cold Steel Sues CRKT Over False Advertising

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We all know there’s little love between knife manufacturers. When you are trying to make a knife stronger, better,  and more interesting than a competitor, there’s bound to be tension and animosity.

But Cold Steel is taking it to the next level.

In a press release, Cold Steel announced that it’s suing CRKT over misleading marketing assertions. Cold Steel says CRKT’s claims that its various locking mechanisms—including LAWKS, AutoLAWKS, and L.B.S—can convert a folding knife into a “virtual fixed blade” is not only misleading customers into buying poorly performing knives but also causing losses to their business.

Here’s more from Cold Steel President Lynn C. Thompson: “Consumers are entitled to truthful information. They need to know what a knife can and can’t do. We are a nation of people who USE our knives. Responsible knife owners want to use their tools, and they should be given honest information about the performance, reliability and safety they should expect.”

logoSo what does Cold Steel want out of this lawsuit? The company is seeking an unspecified amount of money from damages caused by CRKT’s “blatantly false claims” and “dishonest tactics,” which will then be donated to Knife Rights. It also wants an injunction, treble damages, and attorneys’ fees.

As someone who’s no stranger to the world of marketing, hyperbole is a part of the business. In terms of false advertisement, this is merely a matter of semantics. When CRKT says its folders become virtual fixed blades, it’s not saying that they become true fixed blades. “Virtual” means very close to being something without actually being it, according to Merriam-Webster. Whether that phrase is strong enough to trick customers is up to the courts.

Still, CRKT does have the tendency to embellish the strength of its knives, but pretty much every knife company is guilty of exaggeration and that includes Cold Steel. The astute redditors at r/knifeclub pointed out that Cold Steel has used similar terms tons of times. In its marketing copy for the Natchez Bowie, for example, it reads “the resulting blade it yields is virtually indestructible.” Not to mention the fact that its slogan is “World’s Strongest Sharpest Knives.”

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Does this make the knives from either company less than worthy? Absolutely not.

As you might expect, this lawsuit has stirred up controversy and heated debates, with most of the criticism aimed at Cold Steel. Thompson recently responded to the brouhaha with a passionate letter on the Cold Steel website.

You can read the full letter here, but the gist of it is that Thompson can’t sit idly by while competitors make wild claims that aren’t true. He prides himself on caring for customers’ fingers and when he sees knives that don’t hold up under testing, he said legal action is necessary. (He also said he asked CRKT to remove the claim before filing the suit.)

Here’s a longer excerpt:

In my 35 years in this industry this is only the second time I’ve found it necessary to resort to legal action to get a competitors attention. This is not something I take lightly and for me this is a deadly serious matter. I feel everyone in this industry should be able to compete on an even and fair playing field. We all make products that people rely on each and every day, and there is a responsibility there that must be addressed. Empty claims not only hurt our business and damage our sales, but they also place the customer at risk, and for me that is not acceptable.

This will undoubtedly gain some press (as it has here), but there is some merit to Cold Steel’s claims. They made a pretty compelling video that shows how a CRKT knife will fail long before a Cold Steel knife, but it would have probably been better to point out how strong Cold Steel knives are compared to competitors without the lawsuit.

Check out the video:

What do you think? Is this another frivolous lawsuit or is Cold Steel doing the people’s work to ensure only safe and reasonable claims are touted by companies?


Tim

Timothy Martinez Jr. is the community director for Knife Depot and the editor of The Cutting Edge. If you have any questions or ideas for The Cutting Edge, you can contact him at Tim@knife-depot.com.
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20 Comments

  1. I think its kinda frivolous of mr. Thompson if you dont have enuff sense to know the difference between a lockblade and a fixed blade you probably shouldnt be using either.

  2. I don’t normally think of Cold Steel or CRKT knives if I want a tried and true performer…I’ve had both brands fail at times where I thought the task should have been easy. Neither brand really crosses my mind when knife shopping, but when I saw “lawsuit”, it immediately got my attention. In essence the lawsuit acts as advertising by promoting one product over another. I my opinion though, it might be on the expensive side….if I were the judge, I’d throw it out, but not before assessing Cold Steel a million dollar fine for double talk and wasting time and money.

    • Tim

      July 7, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Both brands are pretty good at standing up to some pretty basic tests, but I don’t think anyone would mistake one of either of their folders for a fixed blade. I think it really has to do with Cold Steel trying to market its stuff, even though its a waste of time and money.

  3. world strongest sharpest blades, should a great claim coming from CRKT !!
    that’s juste plin stupid, no one actually think a folder (even cold steel ones) is a strong as a fixed, and no one “should” think a knife (any knife) is unbreakable

    now if you use a blade to cut (or stab if it’s made for that purpose) it should never fail either you paid 15 or 1500$

    • Tim

      July 7, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Yup, both make pretty suspect claims, but that’s just marketing for you. Pretty much every knife out there can do what its made for, the only real question is how much pressure or force it can withstand and how much is reasonable to expect on a knife.

  4. I think Cold Steel, through this notoriety, has already gained what they were after in the law suit.
    (1) The perception that they have a better and stronger knife,
    (2) A more concerned, sincere and honest management team, and
    (3) Through all this publicity, a knock on their primary competitor.
    Easily worth a $1 Mil law suit.

    • Tim

      July 7, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      Sure, they’ve gained a lot of publicity, but a lot of the response to this lawsuit has been backlash against Cold Steel for hypocrisy and frivolousness (though CRKT hasn’t fared well in this either). Is that worth a million? I don’t know, but that’s a lot of money.

  5. Caught my attention too. Have to admit until this article hit my email, I had never heard of either Cold Steel or CRKT. And now that I have, I will still not buy their blades. Love my K-Bar and S&W!

    • Tim

      July 7, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      Well then. We’ll just consider this a loss for both companies then. From your small sample size, it seems Cold Steel is going down but it’s taking CRKT with it. That’s a win for the other manufacturers.

  6. I can’t stand companies… or individuals for that matter.. who engage in this kind of frivolous garbage. They can couch it all they want as protecting “their” consumers, but plain and simple, if Cold Steel is losing market share from something like this, it simply proves CRKT’s marketing is working. I use my knives hard, and I have had failures in CRKT locks as well as others. I even had the vaunted Triad lock fail on me. Abuse in nearly every case, but all situations where a fixed blade would have held up. NONE of them are as fail proof as a fixed blade.. but then, we buy folders for convenience, right? I know the trade off I’m making when I buy a folder. When I’m using a knife in a way that might destroy it, I’m aware and protecting myself. I don’t need Cold Steel pretending to play the white hat with a pointless lawsuit/marketing gimmick, and I won’t support their behavior. I buy 6 to 8 knives annually, some more expensive, but more to replace those damaged or lost at work… and Cold Steel falls into that catagory for me. I don’t advocate or support boycotting companies, but I for one will bypass Cold Steel when I do my shopping.

    • Tim

      July 7, 2015 at 6:39 pm

      All great points. I wouldn’t necessarily mind it so much if Cold Steel was only making the truest of claims about its knives but when it also uses the same marketing tactics (World’s Sharpest Knives), it kind of devalues their case.

  7. Yes, I don’t particularly mind the overselling of companies, simply because that’s what everyone does.

  8. Seriously, this lawsuit is Cold Steel crying over marketing over-claims that every company in every industry makes about their products – CRKT is no exception. There are few companies in their prospective industries that stand head and shoulders above their competition. Is Hertz that much better than Avis, Apple better than Microsoft, Chevy vs. Dodge, etc. Claims allowed to be made publicly by many manufactures and service-related organizations are just ridiculous. As a consumer, you need to separate fact from fiction., however, it shouldn’t be hard for us to figure out that a folder is not a fixed blade – no matter what CRKT says.

    • Tim

      July 7, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Excellent points. Although you have to wonder whether things would be better if companies could only make claims that are 100% fact and whether this case helps push that agenda along. Then again, that leads to gray areas. For example, at Knife Depot, we sometimes say we’re the most badass knife store. Is that true? We certainly believe so, but how do you quantify something like that anyway. At this point, consumers just have to be wary and learn to separate fact from fiction, as you said.

  9. andrea lankford

    July 11, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    cold steel should know all about hype and lies and sub-par knives crkt beats them on every level now

  10. Claims of strongest and sharpest knives, and common sense aside. That claim though “virtual fixed blade” ?, test proved ColdSteel pwned them and busted that claim.

  11. I own a few CRKT knives, and like them a lot…I have the CRKT Deviation–*(cool Scifi pocket knife. .Would be right at home in JJ Abrams Star Trek movie.)*, CRKT M22-G1 0-*(cool pocket paramilitary style combat/utility knife. Reliable, auto-LAWKS. A good EDC , work knife.)* Large frame Hissatsu folder-*(like it!)* A CRKT Shenanigan Z folder *( a strudy Large frame zytel Work /EDC folder)* a CRKT Heiho *(cool baby Hissatsu. )* And a Fix bladed version of the satin finish CRKT Hissatsu *(Collectors item—but close by in a night stand…)* I also own a Cold Steel 6 inch Fixed bladed Outdoorsman *(a decent budget hunter/fighter. Also a collectors item, but occupies another close by bureau draw…)* Like like them both…Though I don’t own any Cold Steel Folders….As long as you not abusing them … There great! Probably just a frivolous counter marketing ploy….

  12. Cold Steel eats CRKT for breakfast lunch and dinner. I love Cold Steel haters who can’t handle truth and can’t handle fact their cheapest knives destroyed ZT, Kershaw, and Spyderco in abuse and lock tests. I don’t even want to get into what the 4 Max can handle. You rule Lynn Thompson and Cold Steel. Fuck the haters.

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