The storied English gunmaker (Gunmakers) Ltd. has been operating out of Paso Robles, Calif. for 12 years, however, a new John Rigby & Co (Gunmakers) Ltd. has surfaced in London after the original corporate entity was abandoned in Great Britain.
We'll refer to the pair as "California Rigby" and "London Rigby" for the sake of clarity. Only "California Rigby" claims to be the legitimate John Rigby & Co (Gunmakers) Ltd. dating to Ireland in 1735. "London Rigby" merely claims to have filed a corporation under the name John Rigby & Co (Gunmakers) Ltd. after "California Rigby" neglected to file a trademark or incorporate the company in England.
This whole affair dates back to 1997 when Neil Gibson of Texas bought the historic record books, intellectual property and other rights to the John Rigby & Co (Gunmakers) Ltd. marque from Paul Roberts of J. Roberts & Sons of London. J. Roberts & Sons bought the rights in Rigby in 1984 and changed its name to John Rigby & Co (Gunmakers) Ltd. However, in 1997 when Roberts sold the Rigby rights to Gibson, Roberts abandoned the company name of Rigby and refilled under its original name of J. Roberts & Sons, thereby allowing the company name of John Rigby & Co (Gunmakers) Ltd. to lapse. It ceased to be a corporate entity in 2002.
"California Rigby" came into being when gunsmith Geoff Miller of Rogue River Rifleworks in California signed a note to purchase the Rigby intellectual property assets from Gibson, however, Miller never paid Gibson.
Gibson subsequently sold the note to Marc Halcon, a longtime firearms industry figure, who foreclosed on Miller. Rather than face foreclosure, Miller filed bankruptcy. As a result of the bankruptcy, a new investor paid off Halcon's note. Miller continues to make guns under the John Rigby name in an arrangement with the current note owner.Meanwhile, up steps Mark Neal of London, an engineer by profession and an avid shooter by avocation.
Neal launched a project to build a modern version of what is widely regarded as the finest double rifle action ever made, the Rigby "rising bite" or Bisel action. Working with gunsmiths in the trade as well as other professional engineers, Neal dissected the rising bite action and rendered it into a CNC program. His intention is to offer rising bite rifles and shotguns under the corporate name of John Rigby & Co (Gunmakers) Ltd., which he has registered as a company in England.
I checked the British Trademark Registry and indeed no marque for John Rigby & Co (Gunmakers) Ltd. existed before June 11, 2009 when Miller belatedly filed an application, subsequent to Neal's launching of "London Rigby."
Neal explained his position on "London Rigby" in an e-mail to me, "I should briefly explain who we are as people. We are a collection of fairly ordinary people, engineers, gun-makers, shooters and hunters, gamekeepers and others. We are devoted to the Company that we have formed and it is our greatest wish that it succeed in bringing Rigby back to England and placing it again with the greatest names in gun-making. To this end we have worked tirelessly for more than a year."
On the same date (Aug. 7, 2009), Roberts issued the following statement:
"Under the circumstances, I wish it to be known that the new entity John Rigby & Co. (Gunmakers), Ltd. is in no way associated with the old firm, its staff or its products. Equally they have no connection with any guns and rifles manufactured and sold by J. Rigby & Co in the USA."
This prompted Neal (of "London Rigby") to offer the following:
"John Rigby & Co. (Gunmakers) Ltd. has no connection with any former company bearing that name. Again, we have stated this categorically before."