Bristlebots by Klutz?

Some of our friends went to the NY Toy Fair (check out Make’s coverage— it looks like it was a lot of fun!) and came across a new offering from Klutz: “Invasion of the Bristlebots.” We were never contacted by Klutz (or Scholastic), which we find surprising, being that we are the instigators of the current brush-based vibrobot movement, and the coiners of the term bristlebot. Here’s our original story from 2007: Bristlebot: A tiny directional vibrobot. And here’s a round-up of some of the amazing reaction from the DIY community to this news from the toy fair:

Thanks to all of you for your support! We’re still figuring out how to react to this, and we’re waiting for comment from Klutz and Scholastic. We’ll try to update this post as additional stories and information arise.

Update: I’ve been adding news links above, and here’s the official statement from Klutz:

Update 2 (Feb. 20, 12:53pm PST): I just got off of a good phone conversation with Klutz and we’re exploring how we can get acknowledgment for Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

Update 3 (Feb. 20, 4:45pm PST): Pat Murphy of Klutz will be sending out a note shortly to let everyone know that Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories will be receiving acknowledgment in the next printing of Invasion of the BristleBots as well as on the Klutz website. This is good news for us, and it seems like Klutz is really learning from this experience about how to work with the maker community. The online response to this situation has been overwhelming and I am glad that such an incredibly vibrant discussion was able to take place. I am truly impressed by and grateful for the support we have received.

Update 4: Here’s Pat’s note:

17 thoughts on “Bristlebots by Klutz?

  1. Wow, the same thing has happened to me more than once. Looking at legality vs. Open Source philosophy though, I ended up deciding to just ignore them.

    After all, fighting with unethical dirtbags is a huge waste of time. It’s like any other flamewar: the pigs enjoy rolling in the mud. Normal people don’t behave like they did. Obviously they’re trolling for attention, hoping you’ll respond, so don’t give in. That, or "They’ll drag you down to their own level, then win from experience."

    1. If you don’t fight to keep open source things open, they will claim that they own bristlebots and close the door and sue the pants off anybody who takes "their" bristlebots away from them.

  2. These plagiarists are even more evil than the evil inventors! You’ve been one-upped on evil-ness. Dang sorry to hear about this, but we all know here who is good and who is evil :)

    1. Well I think it’s worth pursuing. I sent an e-mail about it to Scholastic. At the very least they could put a page in the back of the book giving credit to EMSL and pointing readers to their site for more fun projects. Windell and Lenore deserve at least some recognition for all they work they put into this site and community.

      Scholastic is an organiation that is targeted at kids & parents. They can’t afford bad PR like this. I have kids at elementary school and it would be really easy to get all the parents there into a tizy about stuff like this. All it would take is an article or two in a major newspaper and I bet you’ll see Scholastic back pedaling.

  3. Hmm… definitely Not Nice.

    Legally, however, I think they’re in the clear, unless (a) they copied some of your text or photographs, (b) you or they patented the bristlebots, or (c) you or they trademarked the name “Bristlebot”.

    In the Open Source community, credit and recognition for your work and ideas is the “Coin of the Realm”. Unfortunately, our legal system hasn’t caught up with that yet, so there is essentially no legal mechanism to force anyone to give you credit for your ideas…

  4. Wow… as a child that grew up on Klutz books, being inspired to get messy and create, I am disheartened to see not only a blatant copy, but also a non-apologetic lie on top of it!

    I guess now that they’ve decided stealing is ok, I’ll just go download a pirated copy of their books off the internet.

    Let us know what we can do to help you guys! I’m willing to send letters!

  5. whatchawannabet that somebody in product development lifted the idea, and is getting reamed right now?

  6. Keep the pressure up. If you Google "klutz" this story is the #1 entry after the ones for itself. If you Google "Pat Murphy" this shows up multiple times on the first page. After just one day! It will take years for Klutz and Pat to get over the impact of this, unless they both make it right VERY quickly. Keep spreading the word!

  7. when a company seriously fails to live up to it’s mantra, by not only intentionally not citing a source (their youtube reply post to yours shows they were aware) but it’s an *evil* source at that, they really show what they’re made of.

    they’ve had questionable IP practices before, but this is outrageous. were i in your shoes i’d want a reprint, (not a sticker acknowledgment), a public apology from the "editor" and a healthy portion of the editor’s fees.

  8. Glad to see Klutz trying to make things right. Keep up the good work! Um… I mean the evil work!

  9. I’m so glad that friendly relations between the Maker-Nation and the Publisher-Nation can continue… I’m impressed by the way this was handled on all sides.

  10. From experience, for a couple of hundred bucks you can get a lawyer to cease and desist using what appears to be your trademark. I’m not sure an aknowledgemnt is the way to go. How about a donation to your favorite charity or science museum. At a minimum I suspect you could force them to sticker the current run of the books. A reasonable settlement in cash would remove that posbility. They are a commercial concern, they are NOT the nice person you talked to. Their only motivation as a company is to make money, there’s no reason for you not to be similarly motivated when dealing with them.

    1. uhm, no, that’s not nice. you just got taken to the cleaners.

      nice would be them paying the ~5c per book to put an acknowledgment sticker on the CURRENT run, and entering into a co-promotion agreement, probably including features on their website linking to you.

      they have zero layout for intentionally profiting from your work and given the reviews this thing has already on amazon, it may not hit another printing.

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