Microtech Amends Lawsuit, Says KAI Involved in Natrix Blog Post

Today, Anthony Marfione and Microtech filed a motion to amend their complaint in the ongoing lawsuit against KAI USA Ltd and KAI Social Media Manager Kale Beyer. The motion, which was unopposed and later granted by the Court, orders that the amended complaint be filed no later than May 26th. The amended complaint will include additional counts introduced by Microtech after it obtained email communications between Everyday Commentary blogger Anthony Sculimbrene and KAI Director of Sales and Marketing Thomas Welk. As part of a recent settlement with Microtech, Sculimbrene agreed to hand over email communications with Welk.

“Plaintiffs became aware of what they had suspected all along – that Sculimbrene had been in close contact with KAI employees and agents and had assistance from KAI in jointly developing the Article [“The Story Behind the Greatest Knife of All Time],” Microtech alleged in a court brief.

Coincident with today’s court actions, Microtech also issued a statement via social media. “Microtech acquired several years of e-mail communication between Anthony Sculimbrene and Thomas Welk, KAI’s Director of Sales & Marketing. This record shows that Welk became Sculimbrene’s handler,” they wrote. “The record of communication between Welk and Sculimbrene has formed the basis of an Amended Complaint now filed in the Federal Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.” You can read Microtech’s complete and unedited statement here.

The proposed complaint provides a more detailed account of Microtech’s new claims and outlines communications between Sculimbrene and Welk:

“..KAI decided to attempt further commercial damage against Microtech by colluding with a third-party blogger with whom KAI had developed an unusually close relationship.

Dating back to September 2012, KAI’s Director of Marketing, Tom Welk, had established a relationship with Anthony Sculimbrene, a third-party blogger who published online articles and reviews of outdoor gear and equipment, including knives.

The relationship included direct contact between Sculimbrene concerning Mr. Sculimbrene’s online review of KAI knives and products.

On January 3, 2017, Sculimbrene reached out to Welk and requested early access to KAI’s pre-launch product catalogs for purpose of publishing product reviews on his blog, Everyday Matters. At this time, Sculimbrene also informed Welk that Sculimbrene had picked KAI as the “Company of the Year” for 2016, which was to be published in Sculimbrene’s online blog end of the year awards.

Welk provided the catalogs for Sculimbrene to review, which included a knife developed by KAI under the Kershaw brand named as the “Natrix”, Model No. 7007 that was labeled “COMING SOON.”

Welk provided the pre-launch catalog, including the Natrix, only to Sculimbrene and one other individual.

The catalog entry for the Natrix includes the following statements:
· Where have I seen that profile before? … The design has – apparently – been the envy of certain other knife makers. And now we’re taking it back.
· Now the next time you see this famous knife profile, it will be from a manufacturer that has a right to the design: us.

After reviewing the product description for the upcoming Natrix launch, on January 5, 2017, Sculimbrene wrote to Welk: “Also, the in-joke – the Natrix – is my favorite product KAI has released ever. Oh god is that funny.”

Welk replied to Sculimbrene: “Not sure what you mean … joke? Natrix is a genus of colubrind snakes. Four species are in the genus. They are collectively called grass snakes and water snakes. Am I missing something?”

Sculimbrene followed up to the email, noting: “Oh the double pun of a snake in the grass … so amazing. I am buying one for the LOLs.”

A week later, on January 13, 2017, Welk questioned whether Sculimbrene had leaked information on yet-to-be-released KAI knives.

Sculimbrene responded that he had not leaked any information of the KAI products, and told Welk “I am a bit hurt that you’d think it was me. … I am a ferociously loyal person and would never betray a trust.”

Sculimbrene also wrote to Welk:

Well I appreciate your trust.

I don’t betray loyalties, ever. …

I’d love to see the Rexford/Sinkevich collab and the Natrix. I have a huge article written on that piece. I think you will like it. Fuck Tony Marfione. That dude is an asshole. Stealing designs, threatening Guardian, and suing his own son. As the Russian saying goes: sow the wind and you reap the storm.

In response, Welk demanded loyalty from Sculimbrene and stated “Fuck Tony Marfione … say swear.”

Portions of the email exchange were attached to the proposed complaint which you can read in Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C of the document.

Tensions between Microtech and KAI trace back at least to 2011, where Microtech alleges a provocative exchange at BLADE Show led to the development and release of the Microtech Matrix, an imitation of the ZT0777. In May of last year, KAI issued Microtech a Cease & Desist letter in defense of their sub-framelock patent. Things reached a boiling point after the reveal of the Kershaw Natrix at SHOT Show 2017. The knife’s rhyming name took a jab at the Microtech Matrix and also held a deeper meaning, explained at length in Sculimbrene’s blog post “The Story Behind the Greatest Knife of All Time.”

The article sparked a lawsuit against Sculimbrene in January, followed by the suit against KAI USA and Beyer. Sculimbrene has since removed the article from his site, and in accordance with his settlement with Microtech, published a retraction of the story on May 11th.

Knife featured in image: Kershaw Natrix