Story dated 28th November, 2002.

The repro-wars are well and truly under way. Illinois Pinball has sent some of its distributors a warning letter threatening loss of dealer status if they sell non-licensed Williams parts. Meanwhile various reproduction parts sellers are engaged in furious mudslinging.

There has always been an unhealthy level of competition amongst some repro makers and now IPB have stepped into the fight with this letter to some of its distributors.

Remember, this is a letter to IPB's trading partners threatening to sue them. Even ignoring the poor grammar and highly suspect legal standing, this is not the best way to continue a business relationship.

It broadly mirrors the message from IPB's President at Pinball Expo in October, only then it was to parts makers themselves. Now it's the dealers' turn.

Obviously IPB is entirely within its rights to choose who to do business with within the terms of their licence with WMS, and any company selling non-IPB parts as official Williams parts is in breach of far more than a distribution agreement. So why the fuss?

It's the "This includes all unlicensed parts that are manufactured" that could be taken as a much wider warning to other repro manufacturers.

There's no doubt that IPB have been slow to get parts made and the promises have been coming for several years now, so naturally others have filled the void and made replacement parts for games in their own way. Many of these have been of excellent quality, but in all cases they risk the attention of the lawyers if they either use copyrighted artwork, patented ideas or they pass themselves off as genuine game manufacturer products.

The recent case of a Twilight Zone clock housing fell foul of the latter charge when it was stamped with a Williams part number, and there are several people reproducing slingshots and other playfield plastics using copyrighted art. Hopefully it is these people who are the subject of the message.

In the case of the TZ part, Gene Cunningham said it was Williams who took action against the seller and that they are the ones who would take future action which makes the above letter all the more confusing.

IPB claim that buyers of non-IPB parts have been calling them to complain about the poor quality of these and this has led them to issue the warning. However there hasn't exactly been a flood of complaints in the public pinball forums.

So what are collectors to do?

IPB do have far more stock than most people realise, but they're not good at filling orders or reproducing much needed parts.

So we have a near free-for-all and the attendant infighting.Sadly the net result is mistrust amongst buyers and the dragging through the mud of the many honest, reliable and quality manufacturers.

The question above has now become "What are collectors and distributors supposed to do?"

IPB themselves are currently the subject of abuse and contempt in the rec.games.pinball newsgroup with threats of boycott and anti-Gene campaigns amongst the milder reactions from collectors and resellers alike.

Presumably IPB felt they had to act, but did they appreciate the backlash?


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