ITS Tactical recently ran a hit piece on their company blog, discussing the newly developed R.A.T.S. Tourniquet, which was invented and is sold by Jeff Kirkham. Jeff has served in the U.S. Army for 28 years and is currently a Master Sergeant (18Z) with the 19th SFG (A) and, in the past, was a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It almost goes with out saying that he has also done a variety of “other stuff” that uniquely qualifies him as an expert in anything related to combat. The article, written by ITS Tactical founder, Navy veteran, and self proclaimed “hell week survivor” Bryan Black, also takes multiple shots at the company Tactical Combat Casualty Care, which approves of the product and also sells it.
The tourniquet itself is widely reviewed and endorsed by a variety of medical professionals as well as special operations personnel who have carried it in combat. Leo Jenkins, a former Army Ranger Medic who has been decorated for valor in combat, said, “It is ideal for not only self aid on the battlefield but also on the hiking trail, vehicle first aid kit or any other place where a severe injury could occur. One of the best aspects of the RAT is that you don’t have to have be a special operations medic to master it in minutes.”
So why would Bryan Black, owner of ITS Tactical and a fellow veteran small business owner, call into question the integrity and business ethics of a competing business? It’s hard to imagine a situation where any business owner would write an article on a company in the same vertical that attempts to publicly discredit them, their products, and the ethical and legal basis for their business. Especially if all the claims were based purely on opinion! So, I will attempt to clear Jeff Kirkham’s good name as a business owner, and his product, with some solid research and facts. Let’s take a look at some of the statements made by Mr. Black in his article (in bold):
“Looking at the timeline of 2006 when the company, Tactical Combat Casualty Care, is claiming they first used the name and added it to a product for sale commercially, you’ll see this is ten years after the CoTCCC (Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care) first established it in their TCCC guidelines.”
“As mentioned earlier in this article, the CoTCCC came out with their original guidelines in 1996”
The CoTCCC did not exist in 1996. It was in 1996 that the terminology was first used, which was found in a paper that was written on the topic. It wasn’t until years later that the CoTCCC was established. “The tri-service Committee on TCCC (CoTCCC) was begun in 2001 as a U.S. Special Operations Command biomedical research effort to ensure that emerging technology and information is incorporated into the TCCC Guidelines on an ongoing basis. Membership includes combat medics as well as physicians and physician assistants. The CoTCCC was first established at the Naval Operational Medicine Institute and was supported by the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) from 2004 through 2009.” (ntoa.org).
“I also believe this to be a non-enforceable trademark against the CoTCCC, because of the date they first started using the term.”
To quote the infamous poet Shawn C. Carter, “I ain’t passed the bar, but I know a lil’ bit.” After properly researching United States trademark laws and the Lanham Act, it is easy to conclude that, first, USTCCC has been using this term in commerce, which meets the basic requirements for enforceability under trademark law. Second, the federal registration of a trademark is prima facie evidence of the registrant’s right to use the mark nationwide, as well as the validity of the trademark, and the registrant’s ownership of the trademark. After a registration has been in force for at least five years (which the trademark in question has been), the registrant is given acknowledgment that its right is “incontestable.” In short, they very much have the right to this trademark, and it would take a successful lawsuit to say otherwise.
Many reading this may wonder why the term was trademarked in the first place. I reached out to the owner of the trademark, Raffaele Di Giorgio, for his comments, “the committee started out doing incredible things and it definitely helped save war fighters lives. I have never had a problem with their findings or the development of the treatment protocols for the war fighter in combat. My problems started to arise in early 2006 when I started to realize that by the committee endorsing NAEMT’s military edition, they were paper milling so-called tactical medics through a two day course. This was especially prevalent through the Department of State’s WPS, WPPS program where they were taking street medics with absolutely no law-enforcement or military background and turning them into “tactical medics” and then pushing them out on various contracts throughout both theaters of combat… My intention is to hold the standard and to hold others to a standard. To this day the PHTLS military edition, which is fully endorsed by the committee, does not require or mandate that an instructor have any tactical background in order to be a certified instructor and thus certify other ‘tactical medics’.”
It seems simple enough to me. The standard was being watered down in order to push more medics through the training, so Mr. Di Giorgio decided legal action was necessary to protect the integrity and reputation of training that is very much responsible in life and death situations.
“I’m not a trademark lawyer, so this is purely my own opinion on the matter, based on my knowledge of trademark law that I’ve had to educate myself on with owning my own business.”
That much is evident. Mr. Black is not an intellectual property attorney, or a lawyer of any variety. I would suggest focusing on things that you know for a fact, rather than making libelous statements that call into question the legality of a company’s trademark, which has no legal justification to be suspect. To be fair, I’m not an attorney either – but I did reach out to my friend, a former Army Ranger sniper and Stanford Law graduate. He doesn’t specialize in intellectual property, but I felt that he was more than qualified to offer an opinion on the matter. According to him, and the facts that were presented to him, he see’s no reason the trademark would not be enforceable by the USPTO. So don’t take it from me, don’t take it from Mr. Black, take it from a guy that actually has a formal background in the matter and has a legitimate basis from which to form an opinion on enforceability of trademarks.
“The R.A.T.S. Tourniquet is now printing “TCCC Approved” on the tourniquet, which I believe is misleading considering it’s not approved by the CoTCCC. It is approved by the company Tactical Combat Casualty Care.”
“I believe from my own opinion as a consumer that the TCCC Approved label on the R.A.T.S. Tourniquet is misleading, as it implies approval by the CoTCCC.”
“In the case of tourniquets, they’ve only ever “recommended” specific tourniquets and the only two that are currently recommend in their guidelines are the CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet) and the SOFTT (SOF Tactical Tourniquet).”
The product is not labeled inaccurately in any way. It does not say “CoTCCC” approved, it says TCCC approved – which it is. It implies nothing more, nothing less. It should also be noted that the CoTCCC does not serve as an approval authority for medical products in general (which is stated in Mr. Black’s article). They specifically bless off on products that are to be used by the military/bought by the military. The R.A.T.S. Tourniquet is not pursuing a DoD contract, so the CoTCCC would not be in a position to opine on its effectiveness, or recommend it. Jeff Kirkham, the inventor of the R.A.T.S. even reached out to a board member on the CoTCCC to ensure that he did not need their approval, in which the response was ‘No, we do not look at any products that are not in consideration for DoD acquisition’. According to Mr. Kirkham, “At this time we have no plans in place to pursue a DoD contract. Our current market is civilian EMS personnel, as that is a growing market now that the use of the tourniquet is becoming more accepted, and there is less red tape and politics involved compared to large DoD contracts.”
It should also be noted that Mr. Black’s opinion on the matter is not simply from a consumer standpoint, but as a competing businessman, which sells a competing product. It should be noted that ITS Tactical is a direct competitor of Jeff Kirkham’s employer, READYMAN, who also specializes in general preparedness and survival training and products. It makes one wonder whether this article has an agenda rooted in competition, and not just simply a transparent consumer review of an emerging product and it’s qualifications.
“Being in the military prior to 2006, TCCC was already a recognized term to me, which I associated with the CoTCCC. I’d argue many others with and without a military background believe TCCC to refer to the CoTCCC as well.”
I have a hard time believing this. Of course I have no way to disprove this statement, but during my service in the 75th Ranger Regiment, I was certified and re-certified on multiple occasions in RFR/TCCC, and had never heard of the CoTCCC. I was no medical professional though, so I reached out to someone who is. Leo Jenkins (also mentioned above) is a graduate of the JFK Special Warfare Center and School’s Special Operations Combat Medic Course, served as a Ranger medic for three years (2004-2006) and a DEA FAST Team Medic in Afghanistan, literally taught the TCCC course. He had never heard of the CoTCCC during his time in service, which coincided with Mr. Black’s service in the Navy. Unless you are a medical professional in the military, it is highly unlikely that you would be aware of that committee and what they do. Maybe I’m wrong and Mr. Black was aware of the (at the time) fledgling committee during his service, but I absolutely do not agree with the assertion that “many others with and without a military background” know of this committee and what purpose it serves.
“The R.A.T.S. Tourniquet has many resellers, including the very Tactical Combat Casualty Care company which approved it. This makes it a more serious issue in my opinion. Having the TCCC Approved label without disclosing what that approval actually means is misleading in my book.”
Again, the label is very clear. It does not say CoTCCC approved. It says TCCC approved, which is a legally enforceable trademark of a legal company actively using the trademark in the course of commerce. A variety of companies approve of products in their market, from mechanics having preferred tools to teachers who have preferred textbooks, and everything in between. In the case of TCCC, they are in the business of training people how to treat a patient at the point of injury in a tactical/combat situation before higher levels of care are available. It would make sense that they have a preferred set of medical tools that they recommend to their students. Trying to label this as some sort of underhanded certification flies in the face of a very common business practice.
What is underhanded? Going after a competitor and their product with out even reaching out to them first. Mr. Black could have very easily reached out to Jeff Kirkham or Raffaele Di Giorgio before publishing the article to get their side of the story if transparency really was the goal. That attempt was never made though. As veterans and business owners, I believe we have a moral obligation to set an example of how to conduct ones self in the course of business. Competition is healthy, and collaboration among competitors is even healthier. Many are watching, and looking to us for both motivation and examples of how to be successful. If success can only be had through tearing others down, than I’m not sure it’s worth it.
The author does not have any financial involvement with Jeff Kirkham, Raffaele Di Giorgio, READYMAN LLC, U.S. Tactical Combat Casualty Care, or R.A.T.S. Tourniquet. The above entities do not have any financial stake in The Havok Journal or the parent company, Blackside Concepts LLC.