Posted on Tuesday 9 May 2017 by Cruickshank Intellectual Property

Fidget Spinners, the newest cool craze on the market this year. Kids everywhere have them and even adults are getting in on the action. Some Irish retailers have already reported running out of stock and unable to keep up with demand and in the US one sales company has already sold over 20 million of the toys to America’s biggest retailer.

One look at the countless videos on YouTube and you will quickly begin to see the allure of such a product. However, like everything else it does not come without its disadvantages. Already schools in the UK have begun to ban them from the classroom. Fidget by name, fidget by nature. School Teachers have argued that such a toy distracts from the classroom, is noisy and can also potentially lead to injury when attempting the many tricks found online.

Yet despite the furore this toy looks like it is around to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. You may also believe that Catherine Hettinger who designed the toy back in the 1990’s is reaping the fruits of her labour considering the worldwide success of her invention but this is sadly not the case and Hettinger’s story is a cautionary tale about the importance of recognising your Intellectual Property and Patent Rights.

Suffering with a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disorder known as Myasthenia Gravis Catherine would find it difficult to play with her then young daughter. Wanting to engage more she began sticking various items together with newspaper and thus designing a non-mechanical version of what we now have on the market. With her invention, she travelled to various Arts and Crafts Fairs throughout Florida and in 1997 secured the Patent on her design with the US Patent and Trademark Offices in Washington. Her excitement however was not to last as the manufacturing company Hasbro who were in the process of testing the design decided not to proceed. Catherine continued to pay the annual renewal of her patent until 2005 when due to financial reasons she discontinued her renewals and her Patent became consigned to an abandoned case.

Once the Patent had lapsed small manufacturers began to make variations of the product and it was soon marketed as a device to alleviate stress and help children who suffer with ADD, ADHD and Autism allowing them to focus on the toy in their hands and filter out excess sensory information

However fast forward over ten years later and various manufacturing companies cannot keep up with demand for the ever-increasing popular gadget. It is still unsure how its existence came to prominence so fast but many would agree that Social Media has been a considerable factor in its rise. At last count on YouTube the figure stood at 995,000 results for Fidget Spinner tricks.

So, while the rest of the world continue the Fidget Spinner craze, Hettinger is now trying to sell her original idea and is reported to be in the process of selling her house and beginning a kick-starter campaign to help launch this.

Although through no fault of her own Catherine has lost out hugely on her invention and she is certainly not the only person to have suffered the same fate. The Patent processes can be a long journey at times, meeting many stumbling blocks along the way especially for sole inventors and small companies. While many may fall at the financial hurdle it is the continuation of annuities that could be the most important thing you will ever do for your invention despite the fact that perhaps your product is yet to experience a lift-off. Under your patent holder rights, you have the ability to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing your invention. While your Patent will eventually cease after twenty years making it available for commercial exploitation you may have already established your position within the marketplace and unlike Hettinger and unfortunately many others, reaping the benefits of your invention.