Some of our visitors are perplexed about the fact that a couple of the “inventions” showcased on American Inventor show in the Top 12 Finalist already exist. The already existing products break down into two categories: (1) the actual inventor on American Idol is already selling the item and (2) another person is already selling a product very similar to the one on American Inventor.
I didn’t understand how this was happening either so I tried to find out how existing products could end up in the Final 12. With respect to an inventor on the American Inventor show already selling their products, I found an answer in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of ABC's American Inventor website.
"I have a product I'm already selling. Can I submit it?
You can submit your invention if it has not been mass manufactured (e.g. more than 50,000 units) by you or anyone else."
You can see the rest of the FAQs if you go to ABCAmericanInventor.
So there’s a loophole. If you have not sold over 50,000 units, then you can be on the show. Doesn’t 50,000 sound like a lot? It does to me.
One of our anonymous posters told us that the Niya doll was being sold at Kmart and she had three of them. I found this article on NiaOnline.
"Davenport-Powell finally inked a deal in February 2000 with Kmart to sell the Niya doll during the Christmas season. The chain store agreed to purchase a limited number of the dolls for distribution nationwide. We were fortunate to meet with a buyer who shared our vision. Still, you have to deal with people who have limited vision about ethnic products. It was through the Kmart buyer that we found a manufacturer [Integrity Toys in Chesapeake, Maryland]. The order was for an October shipment. We met our deadline. The dolls sold out. The rest is history."
To see the rest of the story go to www.Niaonline.com.
The key word I noticed in the article is “limited”. I guess Kmart sold less than 50,000 of them? The Niya doll is also currently being sold on www.NiaOnline.com and www.dollslikeme.com.
Now on to our second category of existing products: the products that have different people already selling them. This made me curious about which of the Final 12 have patents so I did a little research to see who has patents and who does not, doing a simple search on the person’s last name. If I found their last name, then I searched by their first name and the description of the product being patented.
The following is a list (I love lists!) of the Final 12 and whether or not they have a patent:
1. Jody Pliszka, 39 – Headliner. United States Patent D504995, May 17, 2005, Adhesively mountable headwear protective device.
2. Jerry Wesley, 51 - Ez-X Portable Gym. Title. United States Patent 5393284, February 28, 1995, Flexible barbell exercise apparatus.
3. Sheryl McDonald, 40 – Un-Brella. No patent under McDonald, Sheryl.
4. Erik Thompson, 40 - Receiver’s Training Pole. No patent under Thompson, Erik.
5. Mark Martinez, 43 – Sackmaster 2000. United States Patent D419400 January 25, 2000, Shovel scoop for granular material.
6. Edward Hall, 39 - Word Ace. United States Patent 6575468, June 10, 2003, Method and apparatus for playing a word game.
7. Darla Davenport Powell, 48 – Here Comes Niya Doll. No patents under Davenport and/or Powell.
8. Sharon Clemens, 63 – Restroom Door Clip. US Patent 5984386 November 16, 1999, Portable public restroom stall door holding device.
9. Robert Amore, 45 – Toner Belt. United States Patent 6770014, August 3, 2004, Resistance type exercise device.
10. Joseph and Jenny Safuto, 46 and 31 – Flush Pure. No patents under Safuto.
11. Janusz Lieberkowski, 52 - Spherical Safety Seat. No patents under Lieberkowski.
12. Francisco Patino, 18 -Double Traction Bike. No patents under Patino.
We’ll start again with the Niya doll. Some visitors complained that other people are already selling a similar doll and sent us over to www.languagelittles.com. This website sells dolls that speak in different languages but Swahili is not among those languages. It’s a different product because there is a different target market for the Niya doll. There are millions of dolls out there and some dolls just appeal more to different people. That's why people keeping on making new dolls. I’m not saying that this is the best invention, I am just distinguishing the difference between the Niya doll and a doll that speaks, for example, Korean.
After seeing the Un-Brella, John S. sent us over to www.wonderbrella.com. The wonderbrella is an umbrella but its different from the Un-Brella. From what I understood, the Un-Brella folds up. This really helps when it is pouring outside and you are trying to get into your car and close your umbrella at the same time. By folding up, it should help you avoid getting soaked while getting into your car. The wonderbrella folds down. So in my opinion, it’s not the same product. An anonymous visitor mentioned that the Un-Brella is also being sold at Sharper Image. I took a look and did not find any umbrellas that fold up. If you find one that does, please send me a link. (Update: Wonderbrellasare now on Amazon.)
John S. also sent us to www.gobagger.com after seeing the Sacmaster 2000 (some other anonymous visitors also told us about this site). We checked it out and the gobagger shovel appears to have the same purpose as the Sacmaster 2000 but looks a little different. One anonymous visitor let us know that the place where you connect the bag is square on the gobagger and round in the Sacmaster. I went to see if Matthew Piner, the seller, had a patent on the gobagger. He does. United States Patent D440729, April 17, 2001, sand bagging device. Since Martinez got his patent earlier (2000) than Piner, Piner maybe infringing on Martinez’s patent. If ABC believes in this product, I feel sorry for Piner since ABC has all the money in the world to back Martinez.
Paul M. emailed us to let us know that the restroom door clip had already been invented and gave us a link to www.tinyurl.com/hyap7. When I click on the link, it brings me to Clemens’ patent on the restroom door clip. Thanks Paul but I think you forgot to double check the name on the patent.
John S. also tipped us off about the already existing tonerbelt and let us in on www.powerbelt.com. The powerbelt looks very similar to the tonerbelt and appears to have the same purpose. The powerbelt is being sold by Denise Austin. So I checked out whether Denise Austin has a patent on it. She does NOT have a patent in her name. But she could have licensed it from someone else that has an existing patent. Amore could have a claim against Austin if she did not license it. Again, I feel sorry for Austin if ABC wants to back this product.
So that’s it folks. If anyone else knows of an already existing in the final 12 (just the final 12), let me know and I will look into it and share it here with you at www.AmericanInventorSpot.com.