Microtech Responds to Kershaw Natrix

UPDATE 5/4/2017: Further developments have occurred concerning this issue; you can read about them here, here, and here.

This week we reached out to Microtech for comment on the new Kershaw Natrix, the latest salvo in a clash between KAI-USA Ltd, maker of Kershaw and Zero Tolerance Knives, and Anthony Marfione’s Microtech that dates back to at least 2011. Yesterday, Microtech Knives provided KnifeNews with a written response to the Natrix and the subsequent social media reaction. Here is the complete and unedited statement.

When KAI posted its online catalogs the first morning of SHOT Show 2017, along with a long list of other surprises, it announced a new model called the Natrix. The knife is Kershaw’s version of the popular Zero Tolerance 0770, which itself was an offspring of the ZT 0777, winner of Overall Knife of the Year at BLADE Show 2011.

Upstaging news of the new Kershaw itself is the story behind its name. The Natrix takes a rhyming jab at Microtech’s Matrix model, which even Microtech now acknowledges was an imitation of the ZT 0777. The Natrix’s ad copy also alludes to Microtech’s Matrix. “The design has—apparently—been the envy of certain other knifemakers. 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.” We reached out to KAI yesterday with more questions, but they chose not to provide further comment.

In a widely publicized post on his blog, EverydayCommentary.com, Anthony Sculimbrene called the Natrix the “Greatest Knife of All Time” because in addition to its similar sound, the name held a deeper meaning that earned KAI its sweet revenge.

“[The] Natrix is the genus of a snake, in particular, a group of grass snakes,” Sculimbrene wrote. “So here you have the Natrix, a knife aimed at Anthony Marfione, and it is named after a snake in the grass. How wonderfully delicious!”

Sculimbrene wasn’t the only one taking delight in the nuance. The knife now has many Kershaw supporters, angered by Microtech’s copy of the ZT 0777 and use of the sub-framelock, saying they plan on buying a Natrix based on the poetic justice of the name alone.

But, according to the statement released by Microtech, there is more to the story. Microtech points to a KAI provocation and challenge at BLADE Show 2011 as the genesis of the Microtech Matrix.

“Members of the KAI team approached the Microtech booth during the 2011 event and proceeded to tell Tony [Anthony] Marfione that KAI would be able to create an OTF in the image of the celebrated Microtech SCARAB. .. They provocatively stated that Tony would never be able to build a knife of equal or superior quality to the prototype displayed at the KAI booth,” they wrote. “Tony responded.”

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Microtech’s statement goes on to provide more background about what they call a separate lock bar system. “It is, however, important to note that the original version of the Matrix used a separate lock-bar system, a design Anthony Marfione and many other knife makers had been using since 1997,” they wrote.

As for the use of the patented KAI sub-framelock, Microtech says that Marfione had no knowledge of KAI being awarded a patent prior to the Cease and Desist letter received on May 27, 2016. “Without notice from KAI to Anthony Marfione, he had no reason to do things any differently from the way he had been doing them for the previous seven or eight years.”

Does Microtech regret escalating tensions by developing the Matrix in the first place? “There are very few people in the knife community that won’t respond to a challenge,” says Daniel Lawson, General Counsel at Microtech Knives. “We are proud that we were able to realize that design quickly in a knife that is recognized as a clearly superior folding knife.”

Knife featured in image: Kershaw Natrix