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TWSBI, I’m Still Disappointed

Posted in Fountain Pens

NOTE: This is an unexpected post based on current events. Rather than postpone my scheduled post to next week, it will be up at noon today. Enjoy a double-post day!


Well, after nearly two months, there is an update to TWSBIgate.

A DC Pen Crew member shared a link to Narwhal’s most recent newsletter, sent out on 6/23/2022, which contained a joint statement from TWSBI and Narwhal. I’m not sharing the link, as I don’t know if it’s actually meant for public dissemination. However, I’m including the images and a transcription below.

Update 6/24/2022 at 7:30am: It appears TWSBI did, indeed, send out an email, specifically to retailers. I say appears as the “evidence” is an image from Reddit, which I’m including below as well, rather than a link to the email sent out, as was provided for Narwhal.

Unequal Distribution

I cannot say, with certainty, whether or not TWSBI sent out a newsletter with the joint statement. However, at the time of writing (3:02pm – 4:30pm on 6/23/2022), there is a definite discrepancy in the way Narwhal and TWSBI have made the joint statement available.

Narwhal has sent out an email and posted to their Instagram account and facebook page. They do not appear to have posted it to their website.

TWSBI, on the other hand, has not shared to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Instead, they’ve only shared an image to their blog page with the title “Update.” I know from experience that their blog page changes and resets often, so there’s no telling how long the image will actually be there.

It is also interesting to me that Narwhal released the statement on their letterhead with a modern-looking sans-serif typeface, while TWSBI released a screen shot. I’m not kidding, the file name is “https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0535/9633/files/Screen_Shot_2022-06-22_at_2.03.11_PM_600x600.png.” Talk about lazy.

The Messages

TWSBI and Narwhal are jointly announcing that they have settled their respective differences and concerns. To avoid the expense, burden, and uncertainty associated with litigation and also any future misunderstandings, the parties entered into a confidential settlement agreement and agreed to send out this joint statement.

TWSBI and Narwhal pride themselves as pioneers in the fountain pen industry. TWSBI and Narwhal look forward to continuing their respective efforts to lawfully compete in the manufacture and sale of high-quality fountain pens.

Under the terms of the settlement, TWSBI acknowledges that Narwhal has not violated any intellectual propery rights of TWSBI or any third party. In particular, TWSBI's primary concern was Narwhal's use of the piston filler mechanism, which was the subject of U.S. Patent No. 1,706,616 titled "Fountain Pen" issued to Theodor Kovacs on March 26, 1929. This patent expired on March 26, 1946. After reaching an understanding on that issue, TWSBI has been convinced that its use of the terms "knock-offs," "unethical," and "design infringement" concerning the Narwhal fountain pens was unfortunate and retracts those terms. TWSBI and Narwhal agree the piston filler mechanism is available for anyone to use as a result of the expiration of the patent. TWSBI apologizes for any confusion that may have been caused by its statement sent to retailers.

Out of an abundance of caution and for the avoidance of doubt, neither TWSBI nor Narwhal will stop conducting business with retailers that choose to carry both brands or products from other manufacturers subject to the respective policies and procedures of TWSBI or Narwhal as applicable. With respect to the policies and procedures of TWSBI and Narwhal each company reserves the right to modify, from time to time, their own policies and procedures, keeping in mind that each of TWSBI and Narwhal recognize that the freedom to select business partners is part and parcel of our free market system. We look forward to many more years of delivering exciting products to fountain pen enthusiasts. Our community is strengthened through healthy competition.

Happy writing,
TWSBI and Narwhal

For more information about TWSBI and Narwhal, please visit our websites:
TWSBI: http://twsbi.com/
Narwhal: http://narwhalpens.com/

My Takeaways

I’m looking at this message with the consideration that TWSBI was the aggressor, bullying Narwhal and attempting to oust them from the market with unethical and illegal — at least in the United States of America — business practices.

The first paragraph really just tells me what we already knew: TWSBI didn’t have a leg to stand on legally. Narwhal either doesn’t have the capital or the interest to sue TWSBI.

The second paragraph seems to be a jab at TWSBI, especially with the word “lawfully” which isn’t required for the sentence to be grammatically correct.

With the third paragraph we start getting to the heart of the issue. Ignoring the friendly way it was worded, the first four sentences can be boiled down to TWSBI f***ed up big time. TWSBI acknowledges there was no copyright or design infringement on Narwhal’s part — duh. The phrases “TWSBI has been convinced” that the wording “was unfortunate and retracts those terms” and the final sentence “TWSBI apologizes for any confusion that may have been caused by its statement sent to retailers,” are disappointing at best. TWSBI should have acknowledged that they were wrong to use those terms and apologize for having done so, on top of retracting them. Also, the apology for the statement sent to retailers should have been for sending it in the first place, not for “confusion” it may have caused. That’s the classic “I’m sorry you’re upset” in different words.

The final paragraph is… odd. You’ve got a bit of a CYA situation for TWSBI with the first sentence. Then there is the language about policies and procedures. It reads to me almost as though either TWSBI or Narwhal may be considering withdrawing their brand from one or more retailers. I’m not really sure what to make of it. And then you have some more jabs at TWSBI with the bits about “our free market system” and “Our community is strengthened through healthy competition.”

Beyond my breakdown, I find it interesting that all mentions of the two companies list TWSBI first. I wonder if that’s because it’s a bigger company? Had I been the one writing this, I would have put Narwhal first, as then it’s in alphabetical order and there is less to read into it. I also find TWSBI’s choice to italicize the text regarding policies and procedures odd. That hardly seems like something they would want to emphasize at the moment.

TWSBI’s Version

TWSBI's statement to retailers

Dear Retailer,

TWSBI is pleased to announce that TWSBI and Narwhal have settled their respective differences and concerns. Under the terms of the settlement, TWSBI acknowledges that Narwhal has not violated any intellectual propery rights of TWSBI or any third party.

TWSBI's primary concern was Narwhal's use of the piston filler mechanism, which was the subject of U.S. Patent No. 1,706,616 titled "Fountain Pen" issued to Theodor Kovacs on March 26, 1929. This patent expired on March 26, 1946. After reaching an understanding on that issue, TWSBI has been convinced that its use of the terms "knock-offs," "unethical," and "design infringement" concerning the Narwhal fountain pens was unfortunate and retracts those terms. TWSBI and Narwhal agree the piston filler mechanism is available for anyone to use as a result of the expiration of the patent. TWSBI apologizes for any confusion that may have been caused.

With the foregoing in mind, TWSBI's current 2022 retailer policy has been revised to permit retailers to carry any competing brand. Of course, TWSBI will continue to work to enhance the TWSBI brand name, and to select those retailers playing a vital role in maintaining the TWSBI brand name.

Out of an abundance of caution and for the avoidance of doubt, TWSBI remains ready, willing, and able to supply your business with TWSBI products even though you may carry competing products subject to the policies and procedures of TWSBI, as such policies and procedures may be modified, from time to time, at the sole discretion of TWSBI.

TWSBI looks forward to many more years of delivering exciting products to fountain pen enthusiasts.

Happy writing, President of TWSBI

I find it very interesting that TWSBI has released a different version of the statement to retailers. One would think, given that it was meant to be a “joint statement” that neither party would edit the contents. Although, to be fair, TWSBI’s email does not state it is a joint statement.

What I find most interesting about TWSBI’s version is that it omits anything that could be viewed as a “jab” at them. No mention of “lawfully [competing]” or a community “strengthened through healthy competition.” I suppose, however, that is to be expected.

A close second to those omissions, however, is the edit to TWSBI’s “non-apology” sentence. The joint statement reads “TWSBI apologizes for any confusion that may have been caused by its statement sent to retailers.” (The italicization is mine.) That italicized portion getting removed lessens TWSBI’s culpability. That’s not a good look, especially when followed by their generous (that’s sarcasm) revision to their retailer policy.

I also have to say, the italicized portion of their message is even more confusing than the same portion of the joint statement. I’m the queen of long sentences, but that is ridiculous. 58 words of jabber.

So What Now?

Here’s where things get hard for the consumer. We each have to decide if we want to forgive TWSBI and consider purchasing from them again.

For myself, I’m in a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, I love the 580 series, as you likely well know, and I’m collecting the 580 minis. I want to continue my mini collection. My first thought when I saw the Narwhal email — after reading the first sentence — was that now I wouldn’t miss out on the next special edition. I don’t know if my disappointment in TWSBI will outweigh my desire to maintain my collection. I’m human, and, unfortunately, I’m acquisitive — especially with pens.

On the other hand, I despise what TWSBI tried to do, and am thrilled it didn’t succeed. They didn’t issue any real apology. Heck, they haven’t even properly published the joint statement. How many people actually check TWSBI’s blog page? Their email is almost insulting it its attempt to make TWSBI as blameless as possible.

In my last post, I said “my TWSBI boycott will last until TWSBI makes an apology. While I, personally, feel it should be a public apology, since their complaints were originally behind the scenes, I could accept a behind the scenes apology.” Whatever happened behind the scenes, Narwhal has, at least publically, decided to accept TWSBI’s non-apology and move forward as though nothing happened. I commend them for that, they’re being the bigger person… company… entity? I doubt we’ll ever know if there was any form of actual apology, but the joint statement is obviously the only official communication we’ll get, and it will have to do.

At this point, I’m conflicted. But, mostly, I’m still disappointed.


Thanks for reading this far, I hope you enjoyed my post. How do you feel about the statement? Do you think you’ll ever purchase from TWSBI again? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

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2 Comments

  1. Jennie
    Jennie

    I won’t be buying any more TWSBI products, ever. I have 11 TWSBI pens. I have bought and given TWSBIs as gifts for pen friends in the past, but no more. I feel like TWSBI is trying to gaslight the entire pen community by refusing to take responsibility and apologize for their predatory actions. I don’t know who is making these decisions at TWSBI, but it makes me want nothing more to do with this company. Any comments addressing this issue on TWSBI’s instagram and facebook pages are promptly erased and never addressed by the company. Their joint statement with Narwhal was edited by TWSBI to try to shift blame once again from them for the shady things that they did. It makes me think of the word salad and gaslighting behaviour that narcissistic abusers use against their victims and I want nothing to do with it.
    One thing our modern world is not lacking in is stuff. There are an abundance of other nice pens out there that I can spend my money on.

    June 26, 2022
    |Reply
  2. Caroline
    Caroline

    I have enough TWSBIs. I don’t really need any more. If I decide I need one there is always the secondary market.

    June 30, 2022
    |Reply

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