Well I finally had this duh why didn't I think of that moment and looked up some patent law. European,as well as japanese and american patents on mechanical devices are only good for 20 years. Japans patent law provides no extensions for anything but medicines and pesticides. However, even without patent protection they have a law against exact copies but it's far more lax. Basically as long as you change the look of something currently being sold but not under patent it's legal. If it's not even currently being sold than you are free to copy it exactly. This pretty much completely explains all the japanese Iwata "equivalents" that have popped up in recent years. All of the original HP stuff can be copied exactly right off the patent docs. The + line and the microns can be copied right off the patent docs as long as you change the appearance a little. If you look around you'll see exact copies of the HP's that are made in japan, and Micron and plus copies that simply have a different finish or different colored handle or for example the GSI 270 and 289 that just use a different combination of Iwata parts that aren't currently sold in the Iwata line together as one brush. Even the original contractors that already have tooling for the Iwata stuff would be free to make it for someone else if they arent currently under contract with Iwata. This may or may not have anything to do with Iwata purchasing H+S but H+S's patents are still good for 10+ years. Iwata may have realized they were losing their grip and rather than trying to make a better mousetrap for what is really a very small market sector they simply bought the other great mousetrap, as it were.