R-pod vs. Winnie Drop: Let the lawsuits begin!

In our “who didn’t see this coming” category, Forest River has filed a lawsuit against Winnebago Industries. The suit stems from Winnebago’s recent introduction of the Winnie Drop, which strikes a resemblance to Forest River’s 7 year old R-pod. DSC_0570

rpod

In a story published on January 16, 2016 in RV Business, Forest River filed suit in December “for trademark and trade dress infringement and unfair competition.” The term “trade dress” refers to the overall visual image.  “The use of our trademarks and trade dress by other manufacturers confuses and misleads consumers and cannot be tolerated. We do not initiate lawsuits without serious consideration”, Forest River General Manager Doug Gaeddert told RV Business. The article goes on to state that the R-pod “incorporates patent pending technology and copyright-protected floorplans.”

I’ll be watching this closely at it goes through the legal process. Forest River filed suit a few years ago for similar reasons against Heartland and their now defunct “mpg” trailer. Industry professionals I’ve talked to shake their heads when talking about trademarking an RV floorplan. If anyone has ever gone to an RV show, you all know everything is copied by everyone. I’ll make no bones about it, I’m no legal expert and I don’t have a clue where this lawsuit will go, but should Forest River be successful I’d be interested to know if a company like A-Liner has similar patents on their hard-sided A frame campers. They’ve been around the longest, but other companies have developed their own version….including Forest River’s Flagstaff.

39_ranger_DS_HDR flagstaff

My final take on this or any similar lawsuits involving RV companies is that it really does nothing to serve the consumer. If anything it eliminates what makes a product better: Competition. When you eliminate your competition because you have a legal machine like Forest River does, it eliminates the competition that forces you to come up with ideas that make your product better than the other guy. If there is no “other guy”, then your product gets stagnant, and quality and innovation exit the building.

I’ll update this story with future posts as additional news develops.

9 Comments

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9 Responses to R-pod vs. Winnie Drop: Let the lawsuits begin!

  1. It seems that if the auto companies used that to sue other car companies, there would be fewer choices of vehicles to drive. I have seen cars from different car companies with similar layouts and seems to be very similar in design.

    I can see some differences in the two designs. I hope the lawsuit is unsuccessful. I agree that competition spurs innovation and quality.

  2. R. Sherman

    I don’t see how one gets intellectual property protection for camper floorplans. There’s only so many ways to configure a 120 square foot space. Body styling is a different matter and Winnebago seems strikingly similar to the R-Pod.

  3. Dean

    Interesting article. I agree with your assessment and the comments above.

    Dean

  4. Jared

    I just came across your blog today. In the market for a Rpod. Saw the Winnie Drop. Local dealer near me has 7 for sale.
    On the surface through the pics and specs, slightly longer, 1″ more headroom. I am intrigued. Quality of the interior looks nicer and I like the color choices. Competition is healthy…

  5. Scott

    I’ve been looking at buying an Rpod for some time now…I saw this new Winnie Drop and with out question just assumed that Winebego purchased the Rpod division from Forrest River or they made some business deal for the rights to sell them under the Winebego name. I was shocked that it’s their own product line. I would agree that all these travel trailer manufacturers are using the same pool of finishings and accessories inside their trailers. It all comes down to who does a better job with the quality of craftsmanship, floor plans, features and overall weight of the unit. Forrest River seems to me to have found a way to build a better mousetrap so to speak and created a new and innovative product that today’s consumer wants to buy vs. the old trailer styles mostly too heavy to tow with the family SUV. I would say that if Winebego took the Rpod design and concept and made it their own with a re-designed shell, frame,interior,bells and whistles…in effect building off the innovative design concept of Rpod and made it better than by all means…let free market competition flow!…BUT…they did not! It is VERY obvious that they just took an Rpod, tore it apart and copied EVERYTHING about it down to the most minute detail….made their own blueprint and are just making the EXACT same thing…changing the paint colors and adding an inch of height inside does not make it a different product that wasn’t stolen from Forrest River. Just like the knock off purses you’d find on the streets of a big city for sale at a lower price…it’s basically black market goods…knock off trailer! Forrest River I’m sure spent lots of time and money to develop their Rpod product line and it should be protected. Why didn’t Winebego make something similar, buy MORE innovative and unique? I’d never buy one of these and hope Forrest River prevails with their lawsuit.

    • Mark

      I find this quite silly. tear drop design. I can think of multiple companies. +/- a couple of inches who gives. Slideouts guess we can expect a lawsuit on that also. 5 spoked rims? Now fedex and john deere own colors, so who knows how this will turn out. Jayco has now entered the market.

    • Tom

      Well said. I completely agree. I think people should respect the design and innovation of a company and shame on winiebego for being a blatant rip off. I personally respect those who innovate, and would not buy rip offs. I’m going to get an rpod.

  6. Did the r-pod copy the T@da trailer? It was out first. You should not be able to sue over the shape of a trailer.

  7. Jeff

    I saw today on the internet that Jayco has a new trailer very similar to the Rpod as well. Jayco Hummingbird.

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