Spherical Safety Seat, Un-Brella, Double Traction Bike: Are They Copycat Products?

 Since I wrote my last article "Are the American Inventor Final 12 Products Already on the Market?" (posted April 19, 2006), we have received more e-mails and comments informing us about other products in the Final 12 that already exist that were not previously discussed. So I decided to write a follow up on the following three products:

1. Sheryl McDonald – Un-Brella (InBrella);

2. Francisco Patino - Double Traction Bike (D-Tract 2x2); and

3. Janusz Lieberkowski - Spherical Safety Seat.

None of these three products had a patent.

1. Un-Brella/In-Brella. I know Sheryl didn't make it into the Final Four but I figured since I addressed the In-Brella in my last article and people were mad that it did not move forward, I thought I would address it this article too.

Sue M. sent us a link that let us in on the Lotus 23. Andy Wana of Sydney won the 2005 Australian Design Award®-Dyson Student Award for his innovative re-engineering of the humble umbrella – the Lotus 23. The Lotus 23, is a fully retractable umbrella, where the canopy and frame cleverly fold into the handle squeezing out the water as it folds. The canopy unfolds out of the handle like a lotus flower opening. The umbrella is semi-retractable allowing the canopy to be half open when passing through tight areas. There are no sharp points and the vented design with flexible spokes ensures the wind will never blow the umbrella away or inside out. The Lotus 23 is made entirely of ABS plastic, which makes it much more flexible than the metal-ribbed standard. The canopy is vented to prevent the "parachute effect", so with its flexible ribs, it won't be mangled when the wind kicks up. Lotus23.

If you want to see an actual prototype of the Lotus 23, check out Sydney Morning Herald.

The Lotus 23 is everything the Inbrella wants to be. Andy Wana's website says the patent is pending on the Lotus 23. I've emailed Andy Wana to see if I could get information on the status of the Lotus 23. I will let you know what I find out.

2. Double Traction Bike/D-Tract 2x2. The D-Tract 2x2 made it to the Final Four. However, it's never too late for the American voters to know our facts before we vote for the American Inventor on May 18th.

A couple of our visitors sent us a link to the Viewpoint. When you go to the link, you see a tandem bike. However, I noticed a lot of differences between the Viewpoint and the D-Tract. The first and most prominent is that you can take the front seat off of the D-Tract and you are left with a bicycle for one person. You can not do that for the Viewpoint.

Here are other differences that our visitors have been posted:
* The Viewpoint's front pedals drive a chain connected to the back tire. Francisco's drives the front. The front person on the D-Tract …. doesn't steer. The Viewpoint's front rider does. (bottleslingguy)
* The Bilenky is fully recumbant, whereas the D-Tract 2x2 is not. Look at pedal location, for the Bilenky they are over 12" in front of the front wheel, whereas on the D-Tract they are connected directly to the front wheel. Secondly, look at the tire sizes. The Bilenky has a much smaller front wheel, whereas the D-Tract 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... Also, the front wheel on the Bilenky drives a chain connected to the back tire. The D-Tract drives the front wheel. (anonymous)
* The angle of sitting is different. There's protection from the wheel. That's different. And the mechanism is detachable. (anonymous)

A little history - the original manufacturer, James Weaver (US Patent 4,502,705 March 5, 1985) called it the Counterpoint Opus and sold the patent to Bilenky Cycles a few years ago, and it is now available as the Viewpoint. Based on what I've seen and heard, the bikes are very, very different and the D-Tract is much more functional. Should the D-Tract be able to get a patent on the bike? I don't really know since I'm not a patent attorney but the differences are significant, so if I was a betting woman, I would bet it is.

3. Spherical Safety Seat. The Spherical Safety Car seat is coming up on Thursday's episode 109 (Thursday night has back to back episodes - 2 hours with Episodes 108 and 109). Doug Hall is going to be mentoring Janusz on his invention. It will be interesting to see if it moves forward … especially after you take a look at the link below. 

A couple of different visitors let us in on the link to the ChildSafetyEgg. I know I probably don't have all my facts about the Spherical Safety Seat yet but after looking at the Child Safety Egg, my conclusion is that the Spherical Safety Seat already exists. It's called the Child Safety Egg.

In addition, John Guenther, already has a patent on this. US Patents 6,439,660 (August 27, 2002) and 6,634,708 (October 21, 2003). Guenther has created a version for the infant car seat and one for the toddler car seat. Everyone has been questioning whether this invention could work. The website tells us that they have already done testing on the prototype, so it looks like it could be a viable product. Take a look at his website for more information (the link is above). I found another article that said that Guenther was working with a Nasa Outreach Program to create somekind of braking mechanism for the Safety Egg. Article. It was a shocker for me to see that the Spherical Safety Seat already existed. Since the episode with the Spherical Safety Seat has already been produced, this new information is not really helpful to the judges. I really wonder whether it is going to move to the Final Four. We'll find out soon enough.

If anyone else has any more information of the Final 12 products, we would love to hear from you. See everyone on Thursday.

May 1, 2006
by Sy (not verified)

Alexis thank you for your research

I must say that this blog is fantastic. Much appreciated research and accuracy (links, etc). Thank you for putting the time and effort into making it easier for all of us. I look forward to Doug's group on Thursday and your expert follow ups.

May 2, 2006
by INVENTOR WANNA (not verified)

Thank you for the research.

Thank you for the time and effort to all those who provided the research for these three products before the voting. This Thursday will be another show down of who is going to the final four as I am anxious to watch the show this Thursday. I just hope there will be enough viewers for ABC to do another season of AI. Even though the 12 products so far I am not that crazy about but I am sure if ABC were to have another season, there will be inventors that will display their great inventions now that they know there is such a show. I missed the first audition therefore couldn't make it otherwise I know my invention will have a great chance to make it to the top. Hopefully they will announce the audition for the next season soon. Keep my fingers crossed, and inventors please keep inventing for the spirit of this great country we live in.

May 2, 2006
by bottleslingguy
bottleslingguy's picture

"I just hope there will be

"I just hope there will be enough viewers for ABC to do another season of AI."

I just read an article where the ABC exec who Simon pitched AInventor to (Something Wong) said it's still up in the air. The show isn't doing too bad (ave. 10mil viewers) and it is not being helped by any lead in show like American Idol is doing for Unan1mous on Fox. She said it appeals to the inventor in all of us. She might be better off banking on that other side of humanity... a sucker is born every minute.

Please check out my invention at .

May 2, 2006
by bottleslingguy
bottleslingguy's picture

"damped gimbal

"damped gimbal bearings"

This is from the SafetyEgg website. Earlier people were mentioning Janusz's seat probably needed something like a 'brake system', 'shock absorbers', 'springs' . I also noticed the SafetyEgg inventor mentioned the gimbal technology was already being used in things like boat compasses and cup holders. I'm sure Janusz can still get around some of the existing aspects of the SafetyEgg which could start a revolution in the car safety seat catagory. That is nothing short of awesome.

If this hokey circus act of a reality show comes out with a product like that it will gain a whole lot of respect from me, judges notwithstanding.

Please check out my invention at Bottle Sling - Invention Gallery .

May 2, 2006
by Alexis

Sy - Thanks

Thank you for the compliment. We all try really hard here at AmericanInventorSpot.com and it is really, really nice to be thanked. We also appreciate all those people who have provided us with the links to these copycat products. Its amazing how good the research is by our visitors. Maybe ABC should consider hiring some of these people for next seasons (assuming there is one).

May 3, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

If the show accepted videos

If the show accepted videos instead of initial auditions many more great inventions could be reviewed. Many have jobs that require 1 months advance warning. this was not the case of this spur of the moment season.

May 3, 2006
by bottleslingguy
bottleslingguy's picture

Cut out the middleman.

Why don't you guys just advertise your ideas here at AIspot? Why not start now instead of waiting for the whole production process not to mention the one-sided contract baloney and save yourself a sea of tears?

Please check out my invention at .

May 5, 2006
by bottleslingguy
bottleslingguy's picture

Janusz's seat and the Safety

Janusz's seat and the Safety Egg could prove to be the next step in car safety. Imagine building cars with whole interiors built with this technology. It could make airbags obsolete and needs to be studied further so we can start using it. The gimbal set-up is pretty simple.

One issue I'd like to bring up is do I want my infant's safety seat swiveling around next to my other kids. Do we want all that movement inside the passenger compartment? I wish the show talked more about the technology behind Janusz's seat. His first prototype may have been better than the one at the end of the show. It seemed even smaller than the fancy one. The size of the seat is going to be very important. Maybe carmakers will offer an optional built-in damped gimbal safety system. I really think it would be cool if they made all the seats like that, the driver's and other passengers. That would be pretty cool.

Please check out my invention at .

May 29, 2006
by Jessi (not verified)

Major difference between safety seats

Alexis, firstly, thank you for your research - it's great to see people not taking the show at face value. Having looked at the two seat designs, though, I see a very major difference between the two designs.

From my brief look at the "egg", it appears that design only allows the seat to rotate around a single axis, which means that in the case of the infant version, it would not protect the child from rear or frontal impact. The "sphere" has a more gyroscopic freedom of movement which does not rely on an axis for rotation, but instead allows simultaneous rotation around multiple axes, meaning that the sphere design would provide protection from impact from literally any angle or even a rolling vehicle. So I think that Janusz's seat is a vast improvement over the "egg" concept.