Intellectual Property at Really Right Stuff

Mr. Johnson goes to China

I moved to Shanghai in 1998 to take the reins of the Bestfoods China operations. We had four separate joint ventures with state of the art factories producing Knorr soups, bouillons and sauces, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, and Skippy peanut butter. Our products were world-class and we quickly gained a nice foothold in the market.

However, the China market was still new to capitalism and lacked a robust system of commercial laws or enforcement capability. The society had zero motivation to protect intellectual property rights and any market leading brand worth its salt encountered major counterfeiting problems. Even relatively low-cost consumables were not immune and we routinely found fake Skippy, fake Knorr and fake Hellmann’s products on grocery store shelves across the country. We estimated we lost $6 million in sales in one year alone, as well as losing the incalculable value of brand quality perception by consumers who thought they were buying the real deal only to get a product made by counterfeiters in a filthy garage with no quality control or product safety whatsoever.

I quickly joined in with seven other multi-national companies like P&G, S.C. Johnson, and Johnson & Johnson to found the China Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition. Our goal was to cooperatively lobby/help the Chinese government enact and enforce IP laws and promulgate best practices among member companies to protect their brands. We evolved into the Quality Brands Protection Committee of CAEFI and I became the group’s first chairman.  Two years later, David Taylor from P&G became our co-chairman (and is now P&G’s CEO and Chairman). Our group grew to 150 multi-national companies combating everything from fake American Tobacco Company cigarettes to fake Louis Vuitton handbags to fake Yamaha motorcycles to fake Zippo lighters.

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Really Right Stuff – 2016

Fast-forward a couple of decades; now I’m back in the U.S. at the helm of Really Right Stuff, still battling intellectual property bandits.

Really Right Stuff is a small company with a powerful drive to innovate. Within a year from taking over the company, we applied for our first patent. Our new product development team accounts for over a quarter of total company manpower investment. We continually strive to live our fourth core value: “innovation beats imitation and it’s more satisfying.” We also believe in protecting our intellectual property. We recently were issued our 25th patent–not bad for a company our size. Every issued patent represents thousands of manpower hours and development expenses, not to mention the substantial cost of the patent filing process itself.

Unfortunately there are plenty who unscrupulously profit on the backs of the innovators by simply ripping off their designs. They know many do not file for patents on their inventions because the initial cost is high, the cost to enforce is likely to be higher and the potential gain may not offset the expense. Quite frankly, I’m not certain we’ll ever recuperate our patent investments, but we certainly are giving it our best shot.

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The Throw-Down

We recently filed suit against a number of patent infringers with heartening results. One large online reseller agreed to drop 140 products that violated our patents–and that’s just the start. We fully intend to aggressively enforce our intellectual property rights. Put more bluntly, if you’re one of those thieves who profit by copying our patents, know this, we are not backing down.

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We Pledge

To our incredible customers who loyally pay more to buy the best direct from the originator, we sincerely thank you. You are supporting true American made design and manufacturing with your pocketbook. Thank you for sacrificing to reward us when it would have been less painful to settle for cheap. You put food on the tables of 32 true blooded, honest working Californians who take immense pride in delivering the best products and services available anywhere on the planet. We commit to always “make every effort to meet or exceed [your] expectations for superior service and product performance” (RRS Value Five).

By Joe Johnson Sr.

19 Comments

  1. Ram says:

    I appreciate the candid nature of your brief. Brought up as a scientist, I know what it means to be in your shoes. Do not stop innovating but continue to go after the cheats with vigor

  2. Paul Jarrett says:

    My hat is off to you and your company for producing the highest quality products and then protecting them from those that would steal your hard work.

  3. Ryan Barnes says:

    Joe/RRS,
    I consider myself a very vested RRS customer and treasure each product I purchase. I truly appreciate the work and investment in time and capital that goes into each one. I’m proud to have world-class American made products and you will always have my support as a customer.

  4. David Spanburg says:

    Thank you! I truly feel that my RRS tripod and ball head and brackets are the best period. That they are all US made makes it even better. When I’m asked, I proudly tell them I use RRS gear. Keep up the innovations and the great quality!

  5. Bill Evans says:

    Do you and other companies have to pay royalties to Arca Swiss for using there mount design?

    • Joseph M Johnson says:

      Hi, Bill. Thanks for commenting. Arco Swiss never had any patents on the dovetail design and never published any standards. As a matter of fact, many companies had dovetail rail products of similar design, but Arca got credit for popularizing the style. We actually came up with our own dovetail standard based on inches and have openly shared it with others in the industry. We make every effort to honor others intellectual property. Joe Sr.

  6. Gareth says:

    Keep it up! My friends and I are major RRS users, everything from the basic L bracket right through to your excellent ballheads and tripods. While we are well aware of cheaper alternatives, they just don’t cut it for us. Buy once, buy right that’s what we always say.

  7. TD Abbotts says:

    The initial cost of investment into a Really Right Stuff product pales quickly with the experience of use. Designed with extreme care, manufactured to exhaustive standards and supported by active, caring customer relations this company really has no peer. As such, I am pleased that you so aggressively protect the intellectual ground you’ve gained. ANOTHER reason our small business will remain a committed RRS customer. In fact, please hurry up and get the new logo on the shirts so we can rep you on our jobs.

  8. Heidi says:

    Your products cost more but they are better built, better thought-out, and better in reliability. I have regretted the time I had to settle for a cheaper alternative because RRS equivalent was backordered and I have regretted that decision as the plate did not fit the camera as well, left some movement and scratched the camera body.
    By the way, the magnetic hex wrench sheath built into L plate assembly is A7RII genius! Could you do the same for Fuji X-T2 plate as well?

  9. Jorge Campa says:

    If you want to buy the best, you have to be prepared to pay for it. No money? Wait until you have money, or find another option, there’s always another option.
    I’m from Mexico, and with each order ($250.00 +/-), I have to add $32.00 USD for shipping and about $40.00 USD more for import taxes. Big effort but worth it.

  10. As an Aussie I am still willing to pay our terrible exchange rate and postage to get your RRS product to my door. I like to buy once and buy well. I know I have a product that will outlive me, is fit for purpose and I’m supporting employees to get a fair days pay. Why would I want to go anywhere else? I tell anyone that asks me, ‘what would you recommend’? RRS everytime!

  11. Keep up the good fight. I’m proud to have bought my kit from the source 🙂

  12. robert k suits says:

    Let us also do our part in taking the fakers down, let us know who these websites are so we can decide if we want to spend our money there or not.

  13. Thanks for staying to true to real world craftsmanship! Pressing the order button is sometimes difficult as many times it is a significant investment. But know this, every time I open the box upon receipt I am welcomed by some of the finest craftsmanship in the world of camera gear and accessories. THANK YOU for all you do for us photographers!

  14. Bill B says:

    I’ve always seen your products as the cream of the crop. Superb design and construction.

    With an interest in IP law, can you link to or provide a copy of the filing? I see from a search it involves — and —.

    • Joseph M Johnson says:

      Hello, Bill. Thank you for the question. You’ll see we “redacted” the names of the companies you mentioned above. Because we are in ongoing private discussions with various folks, we prefer to not publicly discuss specifics of any particular case. Please email me directly at joe@reallyrightstuff.com and I can refer you to our attorney.

  15. Portfolios in the Sun says:

    Hi,

    I am located in India, find your products great. Not having a dealer in India makes it difficult to actually do a transaction which often goes to others which are nowhere near your quality, time you looked at India as a destination

  16. Krzysztof says:

    How can you have patent for level release clamp when they are used on bicycle wheel for last 50 years 🙂
    It is the same principal yours is just shorter

    • Joseph M Johnson says:

      Hello, Kryzsztof and thank you for the question. Actually, the implementation of our lever-release clamp mechanism is significantly different from that used on bicycle wheels. However, even if the mechanism were very similar, an idea used in a novel way on and a different application can indeed be patentable. Joe

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