A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an interesting project on Kickstarter for a paracord survival bracelet that has some pretty slick features. The KODIAK Survival Bracelet from Outdoor Element has features like a bait hook woven into the band, cord with integrated jute twine and fishing line, and a very cool buckle with an integrated ferro rod and striker. At first glance, these features sound tremendously innovative and Outdoor Element would be right to proudly proclaim that these are their original ideas. The problem is that the ideas may not be so original.
I have contacted all parties involved and started to piece together what is, in my opinion, a pretty unflattering picture of how cutthroat this industry (or any industry) can be. It certainly shouldn’t surprise anyone and it doesn’t surprise me. However, it is always interesting to get a window into the behind the scenes workings of an scene that is seemingly as simple and friendly as the world of survival bracelets.
One of the central features of the KODIAK is that it uses paracord that has some of the inner strands replaced with jute twine and fishing line. The jute twine can be prepped to catch a spark which is a great way to start an emergency fire and the fishing line can be used with the bate hook for emergency fishing. Outdoor Element uses language in their video that indicates that this was something that they developed. However, Sgt. Knots has been selling the exact same product for years. Sgt. Knots verified that their cord is not being used with their permission.
Buckle with Ferro Rod Integrated
The other central feature of the KODIAK is a buckle with an integrated ferro rod and striker. It is, quite frankly, very cool. The problem is that the same concept has been publicly available since February 2012 and submitted for a patent (patent pending) by Wazoo Survival Gear. Wazoo provided me with a copy of the patent application when I contacted them. The question is whether Outdoor Element beat them to the punch with the patent application.
Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole
I questioned Wazoo Survival Gear as to whether they thought that this could be a coincidence. I was inclined to think it was since, frankly, there isn’t a lot of difference between many paracord bracelets. Some companies add a twist here or there, but functionally, it’s all been done before.
Wazoo Survival Gear claims that it can’t be a coincidence. They allege that they were contacted by someone who portrayed themselves as a representative for a company interested in a large purchase of Wazoo’s buckles in August 2012. They asked for proprietary information and patent application information in order to secure the deal. When Wazoo affirmed that they were working to submit a patent, the person broke off contact.
Wazoo Survival Gear claims that they were able to track this “buyer” back to the people behind Outdoor Element with some Facebook detective work. If this is true, it seems to blow away any doubt that Outdoor Element was unaware of Wazoo Survival Gear’s patent pending buckle. I have seen the emails and the originator of the emails does appear to share a name with a Facebook friend of one of the founders of Outdoor Element.
Survival (Bracelet) of the Fittest
Outdoor Element has been questioned regarding their claims and, in my opinion, their public response has not painted a flattering picture. Even the “Comments” section of their Kickstarter Project has not been immune from questions about the claims they set forth. Some of these questions have been met with somewhat threatening responses. In one response, a company representative goes so far as to provide his own street address so that the person raising questions can presumably duke it out with him.
To their credit, I did receive a very friendly and professional response to my inquiry with Outdoor Element regarding the perceived similarities of their product with other existing products. While the response was polite, it also almost completely ignored my specific questions about the products mentioned above…
“Matt,Thank you for contacting us! It looks like you have a great blog, keep up the good work. We are very excited to bring our kickstarter project “The KODIAK” to the world and confidently stand by all the claims in our project. We welcome all to view our project and support us.
We generously tip our hat to any and all entrepreneur(s) and inventor(s).Sincerely,Jonathan Price & Michael MojicaFounders of Outdoor Element”
While Outdoor Element may not be handling the public relations side very well, they do have good branding, they are getting great exposure on Kickstarter, and the way that they integrated the striker into their buckle is very clever. That may be all they need to have a successful product launch. However, in my opinion, it would be unfortunate for that to happen on the backs of those who may have really done the innovative heavy lifting. Hopefully, things are not as they appear and some resolution can be reached.
Note: I have no affiliation with Wazoo Survival Gear, Sgt. Knots, or Outdoor Element.
Update: I reached out to Outdoor Element for further comment in the interest of giving them another chance to explain their side. It may be that they actually did beat Wazoo Survival Gear to a patent. Unfortunately, they did not respond.