PTI petition to Stop SawStop News & Opinion

SawStop All But Mandated in California


By now, it’s doubtful anyone has missed our position on the SawStop legal process. Now, however, the process seems to be almost inevitable as California once again steps in and takes the lead in telling the rest of the country what’s good for it. Recent legislation (bill AB 2218) on mandating SawStop survived a 3-2 Democrat-controlled party-line vote in a California state Senate committee. This essentially makes California the first state in the nation to require that table saws be equipped with “injury mitigation technology” to stop a blade quickly enough to avoid amputations and severe lacerations. While this doesn’t mention SawStop by name, the company’s deluge of patents ensures that is the only product on the market that meets the criteria to fulfill the law.

Editor’s Note: The SawStop lawsuit against table saw manufacturers was dismissed but now SawStop is suing Bosch for the Bosch ReaXX table saw.

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SawStop All But Mandated in California

This recent vote was all but written in stone last week when the California Assembly passed the initial bill in a 64-4 vote. Now it heads back to the Senate floor for a final vote that should be taken next month. This is disheartening for a number of reasons. For one, it is yet another place where the government is “protecting us from ourselves”. The fact that they are ruling on table saws is solely a factor of “squeaky wheel” syndrome. Stephen Gass, a patent attorney by trade, had shopped around his idea for years, but was refused by table saw manufacturers who didn’t want to pay his licensing fees (deemed to be way too high by manufacturers who were already dealing with tight margins). Now he has found a willing ear in the legislative process. The other big issue is that the mandated technology will drive up the price of the entry level table saw by 150% or more. You can’t sell a $99 table saw with SawStop embedded – it just isn’t possible.

With this ruling, the entry level table saw has just been eliminated. I’d rather just have a big sticker that says “Follow the instructions, moron, or you’re likely to lose some fingers!” Oh wait, the saws already have those.

For the bill were “consumer advocates” and labor unions. Against the bill were most of the power tool industry and several retail giants, including Home Depot Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. SawStop (SD3) currently is the only company that makes a table saw which meets the rules proposed by the bill. Not surprisingly, the entire bill seems to have been crafted specifically to fit the parameters set up by SawStop. Sure it’s safer… but where does it end? Do we install breathalyzers into all of our cars and force testing every 3 minutes of driving to save lives lost due to drunk driving? How about we mandate that all pets’ teeth be filed down because thousands of children are bitten each year by dogs?

To keep it closer to home, how long until this law applies to miter saws? How about grinders? Band saws..?

The Power Tool Institute’s contention that this legislation creates a monopoly is spot-on. While the proposal makes motions to be more “inclusive” of other technologies, Gass has only expanded his patent portfolio in recent years (he currently holds about 90), rendering all competition subject to a patent lawsuit/challenge.

Gass has apparently offered to license SawStop “at a reasonable price” to his competitors – exactly what the manufacturers were offered years ago and rejected for various reasons. Now that it’s mandated they probably won’t have a choice.

This is going to get messy.

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