The Spinning Story of the Fidget Spinner

The 2017 fad of fidget spinners hasn’t yet faded, but in fact is intensively growing globally. For those who are not aware of this toy, it is a spinning toy meant to relieve stress in adults and kids. Arguably, depending on your taste you may find this spinning movement either stress relieving or irritating. Whatever the case maybe, if you have seen this toy, you ought to have thought about the huge profits the patent owner must have received from this basic toy. The devastating fact is that she does not make even a single penny of these sales.

After the recent boom in the sales of this toy, a few US newspapers claimed to have found the original inventor, Catherine Hettinger, a woman living in Orlando, USA. She held the patent on “a spinning toy” for 8 years since January 1997 until she had to abandon the patent for she could not afford the renewal fees. In accordance with the USA law to enjoy a 20 year term for patent, maintenance/renewal fees should be paid at 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years after the grant of patent.

Though, she claimed to have sold thousands of these toys at fairs in Florida, and apparently pitched the idea to couple of companies like Hasbro, it got her nowhere. Finally not wanting to invest more than she reaped, she decided to abandon the invention.

When you analyze this situation closely, one might argue that even if she had paid her renewal fees in 2005, since her patent was granted in 1997 under the old US patent law (which grants a patent for a term of 17 years), she still wouldn’t have reaped the benefits of her invention in 2017. In addition, the trending fidget spinners are not identical to her original design:“A finger spinner comprising: a thin, round, single thickness, primary sheet of plastic material molded to form a unitized central finger placement area means and a skirt balance, “and thus it may not even come under her patent’s exclusive protection. Moreover, new versions of the spinner are already in the market like fidget cubes, dice etc.

Even though her being the inventor of fidget spinner is still debated, she has started her own Kickstarter campaign to sell her original design and bring back the “classic fidget spinner”.

 Analysis

Time and again, a patent owner is inflicted with the question of payment of maintenance fees incase his invention is not yet profitable or even financially breaking through. It is quite a dilemma for them to decide whether it’s worth loaning money further in hope of the invention kicking off or to abandon the patent and save the rest of his money. It is often advised to pay the maintenance fees for the 20-years life of your patent, since the non-payment of the same makes the time and money invested in the patent application process entirely futile.

In case, your invention isn’t as lucrative as you imagined, it is always better to seek advertising and marketing agencies which may help you commercialize your invention into products which may one day be a global trend. Thus, it is suggested to always consult an IP expert to review your invention before taking any drastic steps so as not to lose out on the profits of your hard work. Only in the most exceptional circumstances would it be suggested for you to abandon the patent in its life term.

Author: Avadhi Jain, intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. In case of any queries please contact/write back to us at swapnils@khuranaandkhurana.com.

References:

[1] http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5591062.html

[2]https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/03/fidget-spinner-inventor-patent-catherine-hettinger

[3] http://time.com/money/4765380/fidget-spinners-inventor-catherine-hettinger-profits/

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