*notcot in design , 04:32

Kickstarter Nightmare: Pen Type-A + Torr Pens- 08.23.12

cwtorr0.jpg Every now and then an example comes through that’s a bit heartbreaking, and then you wish that someone would teach a mandatory legal course in design school. Yesterday, Fab.com led me to their sale of Torr Pens, which initially simply looked like a strange rip off of the insanely successful Pen Type-A Kickstarter project. Simple enough, things get ripped off - but usually the design rip offs don’t end up circulating in areas that claim to focus on authenticity and great design.

But where this got even crazier is that Torr Pens’ website and the fab page had pictures and a James Bond parody video of the same guy who organized the manufacturing of and spent late nights washing, smelling, drying, and reassembling the Pen Type-A’s with the kickstarter designers CW&T. They even say in their update that he hugged them when he saw them last. It’s a painful story, but we can only hope hearing all that CW&T has gone through from the manufacturing issues to this new level of complication they’ve run into while still trying to fulfill their immense pen orders a year later can help educate other designers going into similar processes! Take a peek on the next page about how things unfolded yesterday…

p.s. UPDATES added here.

Yesterday’s Fab.com email, contained a “stylish steel pen” called the Torr Classic. Surprising to see a very familiar rectangular steel sleeve with a ruler on it and cylindrical pen insert. Something definitely didn’t feel right…




Realizing it was extremely close to the CW&T Pen Type-A, which was one of the most funded early Kickstarter projects, that we have… i couldn’t help but wonder if they were connected.


Torr’s site was a surprise as well - Steven Tyler from Aerosmith “smoking” a Torr Classic? A half built template feeling website with broken links and images with painful fonts? As for the pen… the differences Torr has are a secret capsule, “versatile ink”, and personalized engraving. The Facebook page is slim, they have not tweeted, and the Google+ link is broken.


There is even a “James Bond Parody” short film where a man in tux throws his Torr Classic at a bad guy’s jugular…

A Kickstarter update from CW&T comes out last night… not only confirming that they are not involved with the Torr, but that the man we see all over the Torr website and Fab.com page is the man who “saved” them during their earlier manufacturing fiasco in china, and has been working closely with them for the last year to produce their pens!


Re-reading the updates from the kickstarter, the images of the same man and references to “Allen and Diana” are unmissable.


He and his girlfriend even worked a few late nights with them assembling the pens for shipping.





Curiosity led to Allen Areseneau’s linkedin - and JOIGA, the manufacturing company that CW&T hired to fabricate the Pen Type-A - interesting that the company even lists “providing legal protection in the US and in China”…


What a heinous situation to end up in! And the Pen Type-A kickstarter story has certainly become a valuable lesson to all in manufacturing, doing business, and how the world works…

On happier news, after a very frustrating time in China, they are now made in the USA!


… In a multi-generational family run machine shop in Vermont! It’s not hard to see how much love, precision, and passion go into the CW&T Pen Type-A! cwtorr14.jpg

… and how clear the quality and philosophical differences between Torr and CW&T are… cwtorr15.jpg

So the bottom line is, be careful who you work with, make sure you have ample legal protection of your work, and SUPPORT AWESOME DESIGN!


… Thrilled to hear Fab.com has pulled the sale!
… Awesome to see that a lot of people who have kickstarted the Pen Type-A are so supportive and understanding (and outraged!) in their comments
… Torr Pens has added an inspiration and design page - also some interesting comments.
… Torr Pens seems to have wiped the Inspiration and Design page above of all content sharing their inspiration and previous designs which inspired it (including the Pen Type-A) and the comment discussion that followed.


20 Notes

Two different companies both re-make a 30 year old design, what’s the problem? There’s no innovation being stolen. CW&T had no Intellectual Property to protect.

If you are remaking an old lapsed patent design all you can do is make and sell as many as you can before someone else does as there is no barrier to entry.

----- Alex 13.03.13 06:19



Well called whomever posted the patent number, sure enough, the main design similarity between the pens was patented about a hundred years ago. That dude is still a scumbag, but it’s not like anything is ever truly new…

----- AKDrew 19.09.12 11:42

“a valuable lesson that not all manufacturing has to take place overseas.”

Read the article next time. The guy who stole the design is Allen Arseneau, a Boston-born Stanford MBA. This has nothing to do with geography, just bad people.

----- mieses 25.08.12 12:01

Well it sucks but there is nothing wrong with a little competition unless you’re a Apple subsidiary if that’s the case I say sue them for a few billion lol.

I mean claiming ownership of rounded corners on phones for one thing is absurd. If anyone should claim it in recent history it should be B.F. Goodrich.. They could just claim ownership of all things round or rounded.

You design is a simple one and I’m not saying that is bad it actually looks really nice. You should just keep all production based in the USA and advertise it. I buy USA manufactured goods over imports any time I can if they’re within a reasonable price range.

----- Drew 24.08.12 22:20

I don’t know how much money this Allen Arsehole character planned to make from ripping off this pen design, but a person’s reputation is priceless. This idiot has thrown his away and it will always be available online for any potential business partner or employer to see. Lazy, uncreative, unethical, lying scumbag - he’ll get what he deserves.

----- Boriginal 24.08.12 19:28

Waitaminute! This guy is actually the guy who produced the original pens? He just continued under his own name? I really can’t see the problem. The design is clearly yours, but it’s not terribly original to be fair. If it’s completely identical then perhaps you should negotiate some kind of deal.

----- Jonas 24.08.12 12:02

I think it’s a bit unfair to call this a Kickstarter nightmare. The problem isn’t with Kickstarter - it with the individual that the Pen Type A team hired to help them manufacture their product.
In fact - if it weren’t for Kickstarter there probably wouldn’t be the level of outrage and support that has been expressed by the projects backers.
So in fact… I think it is fair to say that their presence in the Kickstarter community is actually helping their situation.

----- Rob 24.08.12 10:59

spencer, the pens are now being made at a machine shop in vermont.

----- ron 24.08.12 06:25

I am sorry, but I do not have any thoughtful, intelligent or amusing comments to share. I just want to say that I am a backer of the Pen type A and was extremely upset when I read about this in their updaate last night. This morning, I found that you guys did this article and I am very touched. I can’t remember the last time I read a post on NOTCOT that is not 100% sweetness and light. If there is one place that let the people who are interested in design know about this betrayal, this is it. I shared this article on my facebook in hope to help spread the word. Thank you so much for doing this!

----- Raymond Wong 23.08.12 21:09

Battles such as these are common, it’s just the way of the world, especially in business (and love). If one is caught out, good, and a well-deserved ending. I am happy that the vendor has stopped marketing the copy. The device appears useful to others, but not to me.

----- George Cowie 23.08.12 20:54

It looks like karma is already coming back to bit Torr. If you go to the “about us” page, there’s a pop up that says something not nice about the owner, and the incoming search terms are not very nice either. Here’s a screenshot: http://d.pr/i/I2DQ

----- Marc 23.08.12 20:42

So, let me get this straight, a couple of people complete an insanely popular Kickstarter campaign and can’t deliver the products they promised to deliver around a year ago, and, they have no intellectual property protection for their idea? So, someone they know moves in, fills the niche that they themselves created and could not fill because of inexperience and everyone is surprised? People want stuff. If you show them stuff they want and you can not provide it, they will go to whomever will. No patents= amateur status in the real world. Learn the lesson and move along.

----- Jerry Rodriguez 23.08.12 19:25

It’s worth pointing out that the rip-off artist here is American - not Chinese… Granted, the designers unfamiliarity with China probably made the crook’s job easier, but this could have happened in the states too.

----- Tom Lewis 23.08.12 19:23

Who is the original designer? It surly not CW&T. Check out the expired U.S. patent #USD258911 by Sandel. Torr seems to have a better product. Go Torr!

----- All Fools 23.08.12 19:07

We want to thank you to everyone who took the time out to bring this to our attention. As you may be aware, we have a no ‘knock off’ policy at Fab. We take claims like this very seriously.

Upon learning of this issue yesterday, we immediately contacted both Torr and CW&T and from what we’ve been told and understand, this is not a knock off situation, but rather a dispute between two parties that previously had a business partnership. At the time that we commissioned the sale with Torr, we were not aware of the backstory.

We love the pen and its design and will gladly sell one or both products once they resolve their differences. But in the meantime, we don’t feel it’s our place to get in the middle of a disagreement between designers, so we have pulled the sale.

It is not intended as a judgement on the matter, we look forward to hearing back from Torr and CW&T once they come to an amicable resolution.

Thank you again for your input on this.

----- Fab Crackerjacks 23.08.12 14:37

Screw Torr. Karma is a bitch. Dude is going to lose everything, I’m sure. And deserves to.

----- T 23.08.12 13:50

It’s such a shame when this type of thing happens. I was a backer for this pen and it is fantastic, I hope this knockoff fails tragically.

To be fair tho, reading this on Notcot took me two reads and a jump to the kick starter page to know that’s what you meant. Couldn’t work out if this was implying a partnership, design flaw or sale rather than a stolen design!!

----- Jon 23.08.12 13:14

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen one of these online companies; FAB, Touch of Modern, etc. support someone who is ripping off someones design. The first time I saw this is with the bike shelf, designed by Knife & Saw, which got a good design award from Dwell. I believe i saw the rip off on Touch of Modern, which is also San Fran based. The other designer was David Rasmussen; http://www.drdcustomfurniture.com/?attachment_id=2076; a lil too similar. Sorta like what Apple is highlighting with Samsung. Why Blatantly copy these designs? maybe improve them then make something new.

----- Gimmy 23.08.12 11:45

This is very interesting. I have been following the Pen Type A kickstarter for a while and was impressed (and a little envious) by the response. I own a a small machine shop/manufacturing company here in the US that does small run manufacturing and helps designers engineer their products for mass manufacturing.

I was really disappointed that they took their manufacturing to China. There are definitely some types of manufacturing where the Chinese and especially Taiwanese are the best in the world, but this product is soo simple to produce that I thought for sure it would be manufactured in the US. Considering the retail price and the labor involved in packaging and shipping I know we could have done it for a reasonable price….

I hope that this story gets out to lots of designers and they can take it as a valuable lesson that not all manufacturing has to take place overseas. And that there are all sorts of hidden costs to consider before jumping at the low price leader (communication, shipping, turnaround, intellectual property, quality, having to go to china to fix problems etc.) There are plenty of small, high quality, highly qualified shops here in the USA who would be happy to take the work.

----- Spencer T Houser 23.08.12 11:31

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