Kill or be Killed

Mars Safety Swich Company's Kill Switch, circa 1974. Photo from February/March 1974 issue of American Bass Fisherman.

Mars Safety Swich Company’s Kill Switch, circa 1974. Photo from February/March 1974 issue of American Bass Fisherman.

We’ve talked about the development of the kill switch here before on the Bass Fishing Archives. It was invented by a gentleman by the name of Dr. Allen Tomlin in 1973 and he was awarded the patent to the idea in December, 1973.

So, I was a bit surprised when I was looking through the February/March 1974 issue of American Bass Fisherman and saw this ad by the Mars Safety Switch Company out of Greenville, SC. I know the information pipeline back in the early 70s wasn’t what it is today but I would have thought that a patent attorney back then would have been on the ball enough to know that there was a patent pending on an item like this?

It’s hard to imagine that Mars Safety Switch Company didn’t know of the work being done by Dr. Tomlin as Tomlin’s switch was published in the May/June 1973 issue of Bassmaster Magazine. Also, the Mars ad doesn’t reference Tomlin’s patent number or any patent for that matter.

Reading Tomlin’s article, though, he said that he sent the drawings and photos into Bassmaster so anyone could make the device on their own. It makes you wonder if he took Mars to court over the infringement and also how long Mars produced the switch.



  • Harold Sharp

    Kill Switches; When BASS decided to install a kill switch rule in our tournaments several versions were already being used by some anglers who made their own kill switch. I remember one that was made with a close pin that you opened an inserted a small piece of metal that was attached to your life vest with a strong string, inside the close pin was wires going to the motor, when the piece of metal was removed the engine would stop.
    BASS depended on the motor companies to develop the right kill switch, I remember someone had told us there was two types of kill switches, one made a connections the other broke a connection ,both killed the engine and Mercury required a different one than OMC engines did.
    So BASS installed the kill switch rule and the outboard companies quickly developed kills switches that would be used on their engines. We had no problem with the kill switch rule, everyone endorsed the idea as it was a life saver.

    • Harold, lots of lives were saved because of it – and probably a lot of lawsuits too.