Izhmash is having little success in trying to force companies in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Israel, China and the United States to pay licensing fees for the AK-47s they produce.
The typical defense is that it is a much improved rifle, with only a superficial similarity to the Izhmash AK-47. Some claim that Russia abandoned the AK-47 design in the 1970s, when they switched to the 5.45mm AK-74. Actually, the original AK-47 design was replaced in 1963, at least in Russia, by the similar (in appearance) AKM.
Izhmash is 201 years old, and was originally founded by the Czarist government as a state arsenal, for the production of military weapons.
During the Soviet period (1923-91), there were patent laws on the books, but these were generally not observed, especially when it came to foreign technology.
The Soviets would respect patents when it suited their purposes (that is, it was cheaper to get help from the patent holder to implement a technology, than it was to just steal it and figure it out), but generally the concept of intellectual property was ignored.
Having allowed that kind of thinking to gain some traction, the Russians have had a hard time enforcing rights to Soviet era Russian inventions in a post-Soviet world. Read more
Collectors: Values Could Rise
How will this affect the availability — and resulting collectible values — of genuine AKs, Dragunovs and Saiga shotguns? According to the firearmblog.com, “If you were thinking about buying a Saiga rifle or Saiga-12 shotgun. I suggest you buy it right now.”
Dan Shideler: Izhmash bancruptcy won't necessarily make their guns more collectible, but AK prices could rise.
According to Gun Digest's very own Dan Shideler, who edits the Standard Catalog of Firearms and Gun Digest 2010, values of Russian manufactured arms could rise, but there are other factors to consider.
“This is one of the risks run by companies that fail to police their actual or intellectual property rights zealously,” Shideler said. “A similar situation occurred here in the USA several years ago when Colt sued a company that was making a clone of the Single Action Army. Colt held that their “trade dress” rights — not an actual patent or trademark, which Colt did not hold on the SAA — had been violated since the other company's product so closely resembled theirs. The court didn't sustain Colt's opinion, which is good, since if it had, it would have stopped production of virtually all other single-action revolvers (Ruger, EMF, Uberti, USFA, etc.) unless these manufacturers paid Colt a licensing fee.
“As it turns out, the court's ruling did not substantially damage Colt, which had various other product lines and a great brand name to fall back on. Izmash is well-diversified, too, so they must be suffering from other serious internal problems as well.
“Would the bankruptcy of Izhmash make their guns more collectible? Probably not. Will it make prices for AK's rise? Possibly, if other manufacturers can't pick up the slack.”
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In light of the financial troubles and reported bancruptcy of Izhmash — the Russian manufacturer of AK-47s, Dragunovs SVDs and Saiga shotguns — will prices on these Russian firearms soon rise? Will this news compel you to consider buying arms made by Izhmash in anticipation of shortages? Click Here to Discuss the Collectibility of Izhmash Firearms in the Forum.