Massdrop posted a svelte TKL keyboard with an aluminum frame and extensive RGB backlighting called the “CTRL.” (opens in new tab)It’s a fetching mechanical keyboard with a cool name, but there’s one problem: It looks every inch like Input Club’s K-Type, just dressed in black.
This wouldn’t be so surprising--after all, the Input Club did launch the K-Type on Massdrop last year--were it not for the public divorce the two companies recently went through. Read that article we linked to for a full breakdown of the situation, but in short, the two companies came to loggerheads about legal issues pertaining to certain IP, patents, and licensing agreements. That all came to light in September, and as far as our research can tell us, nothing has really been settled. Instead, the two parties seems to have simply moved on in lieu of protracted legal battles.
Or so we thought; the presence of this K-Type lookalike on Massdrop seems like...a statement. Of course, it could simply be that Massdrop 1) thinks the CTRL/K-Type is a great keyboard that 2) it can profit from and 3) that it has the rights to make and sell it. Even more noteworthy is the fact that you can order a CTRL with Cherry MX, Kailh, or--Halo switches. Those Halo switches were at the heart of the disagreement between Massdrop and the Input Club. (The Input Club moved on and made its not-so-subtly named “Hako” switches.)
It is true that the Input Club open sourced the K-Type’s design, so in a sense Massdrop is just doing at scale what anyone could do on their own. However, the Input Club does retain royalty rights of some kind. (We aren’t certain of the royalty details because we don’t have access to those documents, but from our conversations with the parties involved, that is the case.) If Massdrop is not paying those royalties, it could have a fresh round of legal challenges on its hands.
Whatever is going on between Massdrop and Input Club, though, the fact remains that you can snag a black-metal twin of the K-Type from Massdrop. In addition to the color difference and switch options, the CTRL uses QMK for programming instead of the Input Club’s KLL. The cost is $200, with an estimated ship date of August 15. You have eight days left to join the drop.
Meanwhile, the Input Club is on to its latest creation, the Kira, which has a unique condensed 99-key layout (pictured below). The full details of the Kira are under wraps for now, but its campaign will go live on Tuesday, March 27.