Are the American Inventor Final 12 Products Already on the Market?

herecomesnayadoll 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

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 and

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 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 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 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 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 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


Apr 19, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for researching all of those. People should take the time to thoroughly research before making rash statements. For example, the poor guy with the sackmaster was lamblasted on several blogs for copying someone else when in fact you discovered that he holds the first patent. He has been defamed all over the web wrongly. So have others including us. Because we sold 20 of our product on a popular website as a test market, it was assumed that our product was a rip off when we are the ones that sold them to the website. It was our product. Please make sure you are correct before calling into question someone's character.

Apr 19, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexis - great research on

Alexis - great research on the products.

A few things to point out to everyone. Note that both patents for the sandbaggers are *design* patents. Anyone can get a design patent - it just covers how it looks. It seems to me that the gobagger achieves the desired task - one person bag filling. Furthermore, it looks slightly better than the sackmaster because the the design of the gobagger lets you use the rearward hand to hold the bag in place (the sackmaster doesn't seem to indicate how you hold the bag on). Also, note from the gobagger patent that its design stacks - the sackmaster doesn't. I'm not trying to be overly critical of the sackmaster. But, the questions should be 1) does the world need a *second* one-handed bag filler and 2) is this really a *new* invention?

Which bring me to my second point. The very first line in the American Inventor website states that this show is "the biggest search ever for America's best new invention" - the operative word there is *new*. Right now, there is absolutely nothing *new* about the Here Comes Niya doll. She had that doll in Kmart some 5 or 6 odd years ago. Now, the product might be worthwhile and a great idea, but one thing it's not is *new*. I find it absolutely astounding that a product that's been around that long, available in major retail outlets in the US can make it to the final round of the search for America's best new invention. If this is America's best new invention, we're in all the trouble Doug Hall says we're in, and a whole lot more.

It seems to me that this sort of thing shows just how dumb it is to think you can take the American Idol format and apply it willy-nilly to other areas, particularly inventing. Any skilled talent professional can listen to someone sing and decide with some degree of certainty, right on the spot, whether that person can sing or not. You just can't do that with inventions. A skilled invention professional (and, much as you might like to hate him, Doug Hall is about as close as you're going to come to that) can hear an idea and have some sense of whether or not it's a good idea, but there's *no way* you can know for certain if it's been done before, if it can be manufactured, if it's patentable, what the competition is like, etc. The ratings for Inventor seem to be dropping fast and I think it's because Simon and Co failed to realize the Idol formula just doesn't work in every creative enterprise. Sorry.

Apr 20, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

There was several "no's"

There was several "no's" given for products already on the market. The two by Doug that come to mind are the ladys Beddy Bags and the "Kidney donation Guys" Coffee Brew Cup. Mary Lou also said that a this show was discussed about advancing an invention for the P.R. and "we decided that we were not going to do it." They need to be consistant and drop the "3" aready on the market inventions and bring back "3" from the last dropped "12" to replace them. (much like American Idol brought back George Huff.) The dropped "3" should be responsibe to repay the $50,000 fee. I know the Doll women who gets royalties should have no problem, and she lied when asked who owns the right of this invention.

Apr 25, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

Ignore last post

Sorry, for some reason it put me on this page at a point below what was written at the top. I only saw the last three comments.

Apr 25, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

car seat

there maybe something a lot like it already out there. check out

Apr 26, 2006
by mkingsle

Additional Information About Tonerbelt by Robert Amore

TEQUESTA, FL, April 26, 2006 – A formal complaint has been issued to ABC television network stating the judges of the show “The American Inventor” have wrongfully selected one of the participants for the final 12, allowing the contestant to misrepresent himself as the originator of a concept called the Tonerbelt that has already been developed and has been on store shelves since 1995, including Target and QVC, under the name of Powerbelt®.

The complaint was issued by Inergi Fitness LLC, on behalf of Powerbelt® inventor Joshua Corn, in response to hundreds of calls and emails from current Powerbelt® users who had seen the airing of “The American Inventor” episode featuring the Tonerbelt.

Joshua Corn, an avid fitness enthusiast dedicated to fitness walking and running, invented the PowerBelt® Walking System in 1995. Patents 5,509,873 and 5,733,231 were given for the invention.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the Tonerbelt,” said Powerbelt® creator Joshua Corn. “It was disheartening to see my product, my inspiration, and my concepts being pitched and promoted by someone else.”

The acclaimed PowerBelt® Walking System is the product that defines the total body walking workout. Simply strap on the fully padded belt, grab the soft rubber handles and go. The patented reels provide smooth resistance over the full range of your arm swing. The Powerbelt® burns more calories, tones muscles and helps enthusiasts lose weight faster. In fact, a University of Wisconsin study has shown that using the Powerbelt® burns up to 71% more calories than walking alone.

A decade and thousands of users later, the Powerbelt® has been extremely successful in achieving status as an effective fitness solution, with endorsements by both Kathy Smith and Denise Austin. Additionally, the Powerbelt® has gained attention by national media including The Today Show, Fox News and Health Magazine.

“The American Inventor” contestant presented the Tonerbelt as a fitness belt featuring two handles on retractable cords, worn around the waist and the user pulls on the cords for resistance training.

“The Tonerbelt is the exact same concept,” said Tom Hickey, CEO of Inergi Fitness LLC. “I think it’s ironic that a show, which is based upon American creativity and originality, has let this slip through the cracks.”

For more information about the Powerbelt, visit

Apr 26, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

The gentleman on the show

The gentleman on the show uses the exact same verbage as the "safety egg" car seat web site. This man does not have a patentent and it is the same exact prototype as the safety egg. I am baffled at the recent down fall in the final 12's
integrity quotants. How awful for the poor "real" inventors who have to sustain the fact that they were actually on this show! I am one of them! I made it to the final 24 and got passed over very
briefly. I am shocked and appalled. I could have really used that $50,000 to bring my cooler to market and benefit a whole lot of people.

Apr 27, 2006
by bygeorge1 (not verified)

marketed products

why didn't ABC check on these produts before allowing them to be on the show, after the auditions ABC had 4-6 weeks before they started calling people to L.A., that would have given enough time to check out products to see if they were original or the improvement the inventor made was not infringing on another persons invention, then they would have been able to chose other inventions and not have to go through situations like we're seeing now where there are people who say that's my invention, and it looks like they have a clear case.

Apr 27, 2006
by Sy (not verified)

Check out similar bike to finalists

go to:
copy and paste this URL in a new window and you'll see that the dual peddle bike of the finalist has been done. Too many greater inventions have been passed over for copycats like this.

Apr 27, 2006
by ramsbaby

Alexis Let's draw a picture

Alexis Let's draw a picture for you. The Sackmaster has 2 handles you hold the bag along with the back handle.Did you watch the show.(HELLLOOO) Does New Orleans sound familiar. Watch how they use it,or does your trailer not have a VCR that's the thing on top of the T.V. that blinks 12:00 12:00.GROW A BRAIN

Apr 27, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

Mary Lou's Inventor's bike is known as The Bilenky Viewpoint

Mary Lou's inventor has "re-invented" the Bilenky Viewpoint. for more info.
Got to do your research Mary Lou.

Apr 27, 2006
by Alexis


1) Relax and cut out the personal attack. If you have something to add - feel free to do it. But no need to attack me.
2) I think you ment to attack the anonymous poster who made a comment about the sacmaster.
3) the content of the article I've written says nothing negative about the sacmaster
4) if you want the sacmaster look better, EDUCATE US. don't yell and call us names.

Apr 27, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

Hey cooler guy...

>>I could have really used that $50,000 to bring my cooler to market

Hey dude, I remember watching you on air and you know what your problem was? You were too normal. I said to myself that you wouldn't advance because you had neither of:

A) Being clinically insane
B) Huge sob story

You were surrounded by loons and emotionally unstable people almost to the point of sticking out like a sore thumb. Your business like, somewhat subdued and level-headed approach would be helpful in most avenues, but it kind of killed you in this venue (TV). Too bad.

Good luck though and great invention, solar will catch on eventually - just a question of when...

Apr 27, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

The Bilenky Viewpoint is not even close to being the same bike!

Did you guys actually see the bike on American Inventor? Go look again if you weren't actually watching, the two bikes are vastly different. The Bilenky is fully recumbant, whereas the bike on AI is not. Look at pedal location, for the bilenky they are over 12" in front of the front wheel, whereas on the AI bike they are connected directly to the front wheel.

Secondly, look at the tire sizes. The bilenky has a much smaller front wheel, whereas the AI bike has identically sized front and back wheels. If you take off the front seat, you essentially have a BMX bike remaining. If you take the front seat off the bilenky, you have one messed up bicycle...

The bikes are NOT the same, at all.

Apr 27, 2006
by Froglette (not verified)

Yeah, you are right the

Yeah, you are right the frames are totally different. I'm not sure how the chains work on the D-Tract 2x2 either for the front rider it looked very strange to me but maybe someone can explain!!

Apr 27, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

Tell that to the patent office

The bike at
is the same as far as the patent office will be concerned. If you invented the Bilenky Viewpoint you would be pissed right now. Don't take my word for it...ask a patent attorney. The bike on AI MIGHT be able to patent the removable portion only. That MIGHT be considered an improvement. But as far as concept...SAME BIKE. Nice kid.

Apr 28, 2006
by cooler guy (not verified)


Thanks for the kind words. I am who I am! I own a business and therefore approached this reality tv thing like a business man. WAY WRONG ANSWER!
We working on getting the cooler to market. Hopefully you will be seeing it soon.

May 1, 2006
by Anonymous

Umbrella Girl

The umbrella girl was the nicest young lady. No one should judge her badly. She, in earnest, was so excited about her invention. She had a great idea
and tried to bring it to market. She started off with a drink umbrella and ended up with an interesting produced product! Her design team let her down
terribly and I don't blame her I blame her mentor
and that team. She needed help with decisions
that she wasn't really qualified to make. No put down here just an observation.

May 4, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

Anyone know how to get in

Anyone know how to get in contact with Sharon Clemens who invented the restroom door holder? I want one of those, I think it's a great idea!