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If you recall BristleBots on MAKE back in 2007 it was from our friends and MAKE advisory board members Evil Mad Scientists. Windell and Lenore are tireless makers always sharing and creating – unfortunately it seems that Klutz and Scholastic may have taken their works and ideas without permission. I was waiting until I heard back from Klutz (and Scholastic) to get comment from them and will update this article if/when they do, but it’s been over a day and other sites are starting to pick up this story (DVICE). Here’s the book Marc and I saw at the Toy Fair…

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And… Here’s the note I sent to Klutz, Pat Murphy the author, their law firm, their PR group and PR folks at Scholastic (it’s been over 24 hours and I also called and left messages).

This year I was very happy to see kltuz with a great booth and some new books, I was also surprised to see a new book called “Invasion of the Bristlebots” by Pat Murphy and the scientists of Klutz Labs.

I spoke with the PR person at the booth asking for more information and she stated the book was “developed by Pat Murphy and Klutz” – I looked inside the preview copies for any other credits or acknowledgments but did not see any – I was specifically looking for “Evil Mad Scientists” and/or Windell Oskay & Lenore Edman. The bristlebot was their project developed in 2007, there were no prior instances of the term or project before that date online or anywhere else.

When I returned to my office I emailed with Windell and Lenore to ask if they had worked with Klutz in any way or was approached by Klutz in any way and they said they were not. Other companies have worked with them in the past to license their ideas or at the least, credit them. Here are the prior works from 2007.

Bristlebot: A tiny directional vibrobot
http://www.evilmadscientist.com/article.php/bristlebot

The first link(s) on google are all evil mad scientist’s project called “the bristlebot”
http://www.google.com/search?complete=1&hl=en&q=bristlebot

It was first posted 12/19/2007 – over a year ago. we’ve covered this project on MAKE as well. I informed Windell and Lenore that I would be contact Klutz for a comment, I’ll be writing this up as an article on MAKE and would appreciate your gang responding the following questions:

  1. Did Klutz/Pat know about Evil Mad Scientist’s project? The name and project are identical – it seems unlikely that they were developed independently.
  2. Does klutz/pat plan to contact / work with Evil Mad Scientists before this book is published?
  3. Can you describe how Klutz usually works with makers with original ideas that Klutz wishes to turn in to books / products?

I also saw on youtube that someone representing klutz posted a “video response” to the original video… “This is a video response to How to make a BristleBot – Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2Ps95xuAp4

It appears that someone at Klutz did know about the original project but i’d like some clarification before I release the article about all this, thanks. Email responses are best.

Here’s what Windell and Lenore had to say…

“This is the first that I’ve heard of it. Frankly, I am a bit offended. Klutz makes some nice things, and I’m surprised that they wouldn’t have contacted us, asked permission, or at least given us credit. (Locomotion by ratcheting bristles isn’t remotely new — it occurs in nature — but the name ‘Bristlebot’ is surely ours, and I don’t know of any prior implementation with a toothbrush.)”


Here’s the video from Toy Fair – the book includes “BristleBots”…


And here’s the video from 2007 from Evil Mad Scientists (over 2 million views).

I’ll update this post if/when things change, please post up your thoughts in the comments. Here is the media relations page @ Scholastic – I also called and left messages for these folks too.


Update: Here’s a post from Lenore at Evil Mad Scientists.

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 2: Wow, I’m surprised by this one folks… Here’s a statement on the Scholastic blog…

Klutz is genuinely surprised by this reaction to our book. The development of “Invasion of the Bristlebots” by the Klutz creative team dates back to at least early 2007 and was developed internally like other Klutz products. In light of this misunderstanding, we’re contacting the folks at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories in the interest of addressing the concerns that have been raised.

So, from what I am reading Klutz and Scholastic is saying they developed “BristleBots” 100% on their own in early 2007 and then (also in 2007) Evil Mad Scientists developed the *exactly* same thing, with the same exact name. Klutz and Scholastic never thought to contact Evil Mad Scientists at all after seeing the internet sensation “BristleBot” and are now “genuinely surprised”.

Oddly enough Klutz does trademark many of the terms and words they come up with, but in this example – “BristleBots” they did not, will they now? Will Klutz and Scholastic ask EMS to take down their project which pre-dates Klutz’s book?

In Klutz’s marketing materials they state “On YouTube, dedicated tinkerers show off motorized toothbrush heads that are pretty darned impressive” – so if I’m following their statement – Klutz came up with “BristleBot” before anyone else and first, then an identical project happened at the same time, with the same name *and* folks on YouTube shared their videos about it all coincidentally while Klutz and their creative team worked on the same project by the same name, same design, same everything in secret but never contacted anyone about this wacky coincidence.

Ok, my head is spinning. Comment away…

Scholastic & Klutz are contacting Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, I guess we’ll see what happens. We’ll keep you updated folks if we hear more.


  • Clint

    I always found Klutz books very inspiring as a child (Kid’s Shenanigans was my favorite) but this is really disappointing. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, PT.

  • Ugo

    I sure hope there is an explanation to this; other than the obvious plagiarism. Lets hope the makers get their fair share for their idea.

    Great from Make to take defense of makers!

    Ugo


    stencilworks.finewar.ca

  • Rose White

    Thanks so much for being on top of this, Phil — I’m really disappointed in Klutz for thinking they could pull this off, but pleased to see that our community knows how to mount an immediate, appropriate response.

    Lenore and Windell do amazing work, and they deserve credit and compensation when big companies want to use that work!

  • technoplastique

    Thanks for going after this – it appears to be a very unfair use and it’s much easier for people to defend their creative work when they have others supporting them.

  • The Oracle

    If bristlebots really are “open source”, then there’s nothing wrong with what Klutz did. If they’re not then there’s certainly grounds for a lawsuit.

    Anyone know what evilmadscientist’s policies on open source are?

  • scarr

    to the oracle:

    it is not that they want money, the originators just want credit. and that is all that asked in open source, credit where credit is due (but cash is good too)

  • Phillip Torrone

    @The Oracle – i don’t think this has much to do with open source, the book says “bristlebots” were developed by pat murphy and the scientists at klutz laboratories – that’s not true, it would be good to know how this book was pitched and to get a comment from klutz/scholastic. but until then i’m just posting up the information i have.

    usually EMS’s stuff is creative commons too, and that’s also attribution based.

    EMS and many of the makers here are open source champions, we love to see commercial uses of our works – provided we’re credited and the project made is also under the same license.

  • briansawyer.net

    On the Amazon product page, Klutz even acknowledges the “dedicated tinkerers [who] show off [on YouTube] motorized toothbrush heads that are pretty darned impressive.” Because they add “Researchers at Klutz Laboratories … have sacrificed countless toothbrushes to develop high-performance Bristlebots with more zip, wilder action, and a control that lets you adjust a Bot’s behavior,” it looks like they think the Bristlebot is such a well-known invention (a dubious, transparently disingenuous assumption) that they don’t need permission to improve upon it. Perhaps they even think it was an invention (meme?) that just sprang to life, without a real inventor to attribute (Windell and Lenore just being the ones who happened to make the best YouTube video)?

  • The Oracle

    @Phillip – I didn’t realize they were explicitly taking creadit for the idea. That is very wrong.

    briansawyer might be right that it was an honest mistake, but either way, I guess we can see the true value of these licenses because of enforcement costs.

  • cyenobite2

    I wish Windell and Lenore all the best on this. They are two amazing and creative people who continue to share their work with the rest of us.

    Sadly and ironically, I found a previous make post too where EMS were not mentioned/credited in regards to their Bristlebot idea.
    http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/03/build_a_bristlebot_to_cle.html

    Certainly not the same issue as taking their idea and making a book and toy, but it’s an example of how ideas are difficult to “control” once let loose on the intertubes.

    I hope you’ll keep us posted on this story as it does effect makers. ie: share your idea or keep it controlled under copyright, etc…

    good Luck EMS!

    sidenote: There is a sticker on the book in the video where it says “this book under construction” – Is there a chance that the book is not in production yet, and if received well at the Toy Fair, then Klutz would have then contacted EMS?

  • Mark Lazarus

    I find this post and these comments hypocritical and ironic. All this from a site that boasts “If You Can’t Open It, You Don’t Own It”, and where Voiding Warranty is normative “hacking”. No one can own an idea. Intellectual property is a doublethink mirage.

    If I invent an axe, and my neighbor sees me chopping wood with it and makes a replica or improves the design he has not committed a crime against me. Not even if He starts selling them. He has not stolen an idea because an idea is not empirical. If you do not want your ideas mimicked, don’t put them on YouTube.

    Also, there is no way to prove propositionally that someone else on the planet did not also think of putting a motor on the head of a toothbrush. It is a miniature model of a floor scrubber for crying out loud. The design and concepts have been around along time.

    There is no way to prove my neighbor did not already have the idea of an axe in his mind before I did and it was merely my building it first that prompted him to manufacture his previous intellectual model.

    Giving credit for the idea is only a courtesy if in fact they actually did get the idea from EvilMadScientist.

  • ohararp

    From the EMS site there is no mention of Creative Commons, Copyright, or other legal reference limitation of use of this design/idea. It would have been nice for Scholastic to reference or compensate EMS, but really I don’t see any legal issue here or reason to complain from MAKE. If you want to protect your IP you should do it for real and not just post something to the internet and EXPECT people to contact you.

  • Phillip Torrone

    @The Oracle – “so far” it appears they are taking credit for bristlebots – according to the book, the text and everything else. we are still waiting for comment from them. there wasn’t a single mention of EMS in the book.

    @cyenobite2 – yah… a kid making a project for art class isn’t the same as a multi-national billion dollar publishing company making a book and toy from an idea was clearly developed by another maker. i think crediting them is fair.

  • Garrett

    I think Windell’s in China right now…it’ll be hard for him not to buy something that isn’t an unlicensed knockoff of an original product. It’ll be an interesting perspective on this issue.

    In EMS’s position, I would not be too upset about getting no royalties for this idea…it’s a toothbrush and a pager motor, and BristleBot is the obvious name. And let’s face it, Klutz has done a pretty good job expanding the concept and turning it into an actual activity instead of a curiosity. However, I would at least like to see “Special thanks” section, or at least approaching EMS with the book idea before actually doing it (spilt milk at this point). Right now it just looks like Klutz capitalizing on someone else’s word of mouth publicity.

    It probably would have worked out better for Klutz if they had gotten Windell and Lenore on board. They’re bright people and would doubtless have many more ideas for BristleBot variations and activities. Now Klutz is at least guilty of plagiarism, if not copyright infringement, because last I checked EMS’s site terms in fact state that all rights are reserved.

  • csalzman

    Given the naming similarity it does seem suspicious. Exploring whether or not Klutz should have given attribution to EMS is not hypocrisy. If there’s one thing that Make champions it’s giving credit where it’s due.

    Mr. Torrone’s comment on attribution is particularly good:

    “EMS and many of the makers here are open source champions, we love to see commercial uses of our works – provided we’re credited and the project made is also under the same license.”

    Maybe it’s egotistical, but it’s nice to be noticed for your accomplishments.

  • Little Paul

    Whilst the name “bristlebot” may not have appeared before EMS wrote it up on the web, the idea of gluing an eccentrically weighted motor to the back of a toothbrush is by no means new.

    I was building bots like this when I was a child back in the mid 80s. When I saw what EMS were doing, I smiled and thought “cool! I remember doing that, it was fun!”

    I wasn’t using pager motors, I was using small motors I bought from my local electronics store. I wasn’t using button cells, I was using a PP9 on the end of a couple of wires. I didn’t write it up on the internet either as not many people did in the 80s!

    Had I had easy access to button cells and pager motors when I was a kid I’m sure I would have used them (and my bots wouldn’t have needed a second brush head to stop them falling over sideways!)

    Whilst the idea is undoubtedly cool, and full credit to EMS for writing it up and spreading it around – it’s just not new. It’s entirely possible that klutz came up with the idea independantly, and that the name is merely an obvious name for a bot with bristles.

    Of course, it is also possible that klutz are an evil bunch of thieving wotsits.

    I just thought that (for balance) I should point out that EMS weren’t the first with the idea, as I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t either!

    I’ll leave my pitchfork at home until someone can demonstrate that klutz genuinely ripped off EMS and it’s not just a coincidence of timing.

  • briansawyer.net

    @The Oracle – Perhaps I was unclear, but I actually wasn’t suggesting it was an honest mistake. Based on Klutz’s YouTube video response and their own marketing description, they seem to know they owe the idea to a particular external source. Given that they only had the single inventors’ video to respond to (as far as I can tell, every other “bristlebot” video I’ve seen on YouTube points back to the original EMS clip) suggests that they knew this wasn’t some meme without a known creator to credit.

    Even if the idea isn’t new, it seems pretty clear where Klutz picked up on it, so attribution (at the very least) seems appropriate.

  • Phillip Torrone

    it becomes a disease the more you talk about legal stuff.

    we didn’t mention anything about copyright or trademarks – i think it’s about the humanity in doing business. giving attribution, contacting makers in the community when you see their ideas and want to do something with their specific works.

    “bristlebot” the word and this specific project originated from EMS, that’s clear. locomotion by ratcheting bristles happens in nature, but the word “bristlebots” the how-to project and the origin is from one place, EMS. seems fair to at least give credit.

    about a year later klutz/scholastic developed a book with the same name and same project, they also added a marketing video a couple weeks ago to the EMS video page on youtube – clearly they knew about all this and wanted to use EMS to promote the book in some way.

    the big question (for me) is do they see the need to credit the makers, it’s up to klutz / scholastic to figure out if that’s important or not.

  • Nat

    I’m waiting to see how they respond to this. Bummer that it happened, though.

  • ofda

    Welcome to the wonderful world of intellectual property…such as it is.

    You cannot copyright an idea (that’s a patent), so I’m not sure if the CC licence applies, legally. The text or video, yes. The name “bristlebot,” probably also. Although no trademark was issued, I assume.

    Unfortunately, there is also precedence in that the originators didn’t try to protect the name earlier–precedence in the hundreds of websites with diy “bristlebot” projects, many of which use the name.

    It IS a freaking shame the authors didn’t credit the originators (also possible that doing so would be tantamount to admitting plagiarism.)

  • Kent KB

    In this day and age with the expression of ideas on the Web through Blogs and even instant Twitter messaging how do you protect your self?
    Is Creative Commons, or Copyright, enough?
    The first post is linked to in a pyramid shaped of links exponentially expanding, and edited…. It is a Cut and Paste world out there!
    If I have copyright on all original thoughts and work, do I need to send my ideas to the Copyright office ever time I have a new one? Do I have to Watermark every Photo I put up on Flickr?
    The system is flawed, every Make magazine subscriber that sees that Klutz book knows it .
    Copyright Law needs to be fixed, to reflect the faster dissemination of ideas, or maybe we should use Copyright symbols instead of Punctuation marks ©

  • Jeremy

    I agree attribution should be given when it is made clear it should be done, but I’m not sure that the creators of the word “bristlebot” have been defending the name.

    There are many bristlebots on youtube, I would say it’s a almost generic term. If I were browsing youtube it would not be clear to me who created the word or idea, most of the other videos do not mention EMS either.

    I think it is great that this idea is being made available to a younger audience.

  • Kim

    Everyone who is an inventor and any company that would like to be able to protect the products they develop understands that dated notebooks and detailed information are the key to proving they had an idea first or that their idea was unique. Claims can only be based on proof. It seems to me that, in this day and age, one’s blog and you tube videos are thier documentation. Any one who doesn’t have the notebooks is out of luck–as they should be. Without evidence they may as well claim they had the idea for pink elephants–it’s just as meaningful.

    Copying someone else’s photograph, even if it was published in a magazine or any other place where someone could view it, cut it out, or copy it does not mean one surrenders one’s rights to own it and decide on how it’s used and their level of compensation if they do allow it to be used.

    Intellectual property is just as important to protect as other types of property. Recognizing mental effort shows that our entire society understands that real progress and results come from man’s mind. Without ideas there would be no advancement. Without the right to profit from one’s ideas, there would be less incentive for some of the best improvements. I hope everyone who wants to become rich by inventing something that I need or want to make my life easier. I will be happy to contribute to making them rich!

  • jehan

    Yah, I said it

    boycott klutz

  • Horus

    Hi all, I am stunned, bemused and offended for you. Lies are one thing but blatant bs is just damn rude. I wish you the best in getting this resolved I made one of these for my Son after seeing the ORIGINAL about 12 months ago, I bet it is still going round the trunk I put it in. 8-) . Sad to see something for fun takes on evil overtones of corporate thought theft. Good luck buddy and don’t stop making great things.

  • jenny

    Last year I took a class about using worms in the garden. One of the books that was used was a newer publication. To my surprise it had almost word for word directions and illustrations that could have been traced from the original. That author should be ashamed, just as Klutz and Scholastic should be.

    Scholastic takes ideas from teachers all the time, whether they’ve been previously published or not. Pursue it as a lawsuit if you want to spend the money, or just think of your ideas being spread to a much broader audience than it would have.

    Now true chutzpah would be if Klutz asked anyone with a Youtube video of a bristlebot to take it down. Then we fight!

  • ofda

    @Kent KB:

    A copyright is granted automatically the instant you create something. A “registered copyright” is usually seen as being more defensible.

    But with each, it’s the responsibility of the holder to defend the copyright…in “traditional publishing,” there’s a partner with a financial interest, deep pockets and a legal department to help (the publishing company.)

  • Lance From Ohio

    I’m all for open source and creative commons, but this seems like theft plain and simple.

    So.
    If nothing changes and the books hit the shelves as is, I’m not above tagging any of the books in my area with some sort of plug for the EMS.

    If I make up a sticker for you to print out would other people out there be on board?

    [Lance]

  • Phillip Torrone

    @gang – i’m going to try and steer the conversation to where i think it’s most useful.

    ====
    what is the *right* thing for klutz and scholastic to do?
    ====

    a little hard to say without comment from them, but we can talk about what is ideal.

    none of us are lawyers, this isn’t a copyright or trademark discussion – it’s about what we as makers, consumers and humans want to see in the companies we support.

    i’m sure they’re going to read all these responses – tell them what you think is the right thing to do.

    the future of books (in my opinion) are books like this one, kits, projects, things to do *and* supported by a community of makers. if they want to attract makers, discover talent and get the best from everyone – there are things they can do to support that.

  • Bill Beaty

    Let’s get the shoe on the correct foot here, lay cards on tables…

    What if people at Make Magazine do just as Klutz did, and take others’ inventions without attribution, pretending to be the original inventor? More specifically, if they’re caught doing it, what will be Make’s response?

    Now LEGALLY the response would probably be “if it wasn’t patented or copyrighted, then it’s perfectly OK.” But this is about Hacker ethics, not lawyers.

  • Phillip Torrone

    @Bill Beaty – what do you mean “what’s our official position?” you can’t judge us some something we didn’t do. you’re also assuming (and punishing us) for a hypothetical.

    MAKE works with all the kit makers and authors, we credit everyone, pay them and wholesale their kits to resell.

    please stick to what klutz and scholastic is doing at the moment, again – this is about what the right thing to do. i can’t speak for MAKE but i’ll say that i would personally contact the maker, work with them and include them… and if you’re a kit maker you already know i do that.

  • Anonymous

    Just thought I’d throw this out there too…

    http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/02/be_amazing_diet_coke_and_mentos_kit.html

    Quote from one of yesterday’s blog entry that stuck with me:

    We’ve been doing MAKE for about 5 years now and from time to time you see some of the projects from the pages of MAKE, the site and Maker Faire appear as commercial products but “Be Amazing” told us it’s part of their product development, they saud:

    “We love Maker Faire, it’s where we get our product ideas”

    (quote was reformatted a bit for emphasis…)

    Isn’t this proof positive that this phenomenon people are discussing (with regard to this post) goes far beyond Klutz?? Seems obvious to me…

  • Ken

    A good question, Phil, and especially interesting given the sudden and deep attention being given to the issue from makers.

    WWKD if you hadn’t discovered and published their faux pas? Who knows. Maybe sell thousands of these units and try to establish their own ownership of the idea.

    WWKD now that a vibrant and vocal maker community is calling them out? Maybe the right thing; attribution at least.

    I look forward to the results, but either way I am thankful for maker eyes everywhere to look out for maker best interests.

    Keep up the good (and vigillant) work.

  • Phillip Torrone

    the ones i was referring to were the examples where companies worked with the makers, that’s a *good* thing.

  • brian

    @Phillip Torrone – I would love to see Klutz/Scholastic credit EMS for their original inspiration. From what I can tell, the devices that are being distributed with the book are quite refined versions of the bristlebots.

    I must admit though, that I do not feel that Klutz/Scholastic has committed more than subcultural faux pas here.

  • Anonymous

    @phillip

    yeah that would be a good thing (working *with* makers). The previous post (mentos tube) doesn’t, however, say anything about working *with* makers.

    Not knowing the context of the working relationship, the quote, “We love Maker Faire, it’s where we get our product ideas,” sounds more sinister than symbiotic.

  • Archeious

    I agree they should give credit unfortunately the product may be pulled all together. Even without the explicit mention of copyrights it was implied. They might pull the plug and not release the product. 100s maybe even thousand of children may not see this product and stay in their tv induced comas. :sadface: Have E.M.S. said if they would let them continue with the release if they are given credit?

  • RocketGuy

    I happen to have briefly known the author, and beating up on originators isn’t exactly her style.

    I suspect this is more an “oops”, or perhaps just a bad decision on the part of Klutz. Given how stressful publishing is these days, and how shoestring those types of projects can be, I wouldn’t be surprised that they were completely unconscious of the need to attribute.

    Now that it’s been brought to their attention, I sure hope that they attribute at minimum, and maybe a link to EMS would be in order as well.

    IP law is a mess, nuff said. Sticking to what, as a sentient carbon based life form, I think they should do.

    And now I’m off to the patent office to preemptively patent my new improved *laser armed* bristle bots…

  • Mark Lazarus

    If an idea is a stream of neuro-chemical states, when that idea is realized into an actual object, it becomes a particular composition of matter and form. How can a human being own and have proprietary rights to sequences of neuro-chemical states? It is absurd.

    Inventors should make their money from the manufacture of devices, not their conceptual representations in abstract.

    Share ideas FREELY. Build and improve on variations and hybrid forms of the concepts. Build a better, faster, cheaper, more reliable X.

    There is no intellectual property.

  • csalzman

    Klutz should contact EMS and ask how they want to be attributed. That’d settle the debate.

    Personally, I think this is just a common courtesy issue. You contact people when you use their stuff.

    I would add that Klutz has been a fantastic company throughout the years, I highly doubt they were intentionally snubbing anyone.

  • Anonymous

    This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened…about ten years ago the same thing happened with Klutz’s “Buck Book” – Klutz had published some origami diagrams without crediting the designers. There was a lawsuit, and eventually it got settled out of court.

  • Anonymous

    I find this very interesting, since I’ve been a bristlebot fan and tinkerer myself thanks to EMS.

    However, I’m also a children’s book author and I know that things take forever to get into print. A year is the wink of an eye in publishing. And this is more than a book, it’s got stuff and custom made packaging and is beautifully designed.
    I can hardly see how they could have done it all in just 12 months.

  • Anonymous

    Klutz needs to start paying royalty to and acknowledge all those from whom they’ve “borrowed” book ideas from. Thumbs down to Klutz.

  • Anonymous

    The editors at Klutz put their own names over someone else’s work repeatedly JMO

  • Anonymous

    Of course they won’t answer. They know they are wrong and the lawyers tell them to say nothing. They are EVIL.

  • Beverly Bogus

    In the craft industry, Klutz is infamous for appropriating ideas from others and turning them into books and kits, without bothering to explore partnerships, licenses, or any other business arrangements with the talented designers who originally created them.

    Some people are clever, and some people just exploit the cleverness of others. I hope I live long enough to see this come back around and bite them. Hard.

  • Bob

    Just because someone else made something called a bristlebot before doesn’t mean that the rest of humanity has to include some acknowledgement or (OMG) pay some royalty to the first person.

    And figuring out the first person isn’t easy. That’s why society spends so much money on the patent office. In this case, I’ve seen other ratcheting designs that use a few wires instead of a tooth brush. I’m sure I saw them in the last milenium too.

    And let’s consider the flip side and imagine that the Evil Mad Scientists (a name I’ve heard others use long before this pair) decided to patent their bristlebots and sue everyone who did it. Would everyone in this forum celebrate this action?

    I think it’s great that the folks from Klutz invested their own time and energy in creating a new book that has the potential to advance the art. Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. But I think everyone here owes them a hearty pat on the back for trying to help makers everywhere.

    (And I wanted to add one other tidbit too. I think the Klutz book may be a bit cheaper than buying Make magazine and the raw parts. So I think they’re doing some of us a small favor. If anything, Klutz is the little guy and O’Reilly is the slightly bigger guy if you look at the costs.)

  • Phillip Torrone

    @Bob – from what i can tell most seem to like klutz and scholastic – we posted up the facts and requested comment from them, it’s really what most folks seem to want too.

    figuring out the person(s) on this project is *extremely* easy. type “bristlebot” on goggle, boom – EMS. in fact it was easy for klutz to find their video on youtube from 2 years ago (called bristlebot) – klutz added their own marketing video just a couple weeks ago to promote their book. so i don’t think it’s good to build hypotheticals to distract from what happened here.

    this is just my opinion, unless they credit EMS they’re not “trying to help makers everywhere” – the right thing to do is to credit the makers, that helps makers the most.

    lastly, i’m not sure what this has to do with MAKE – we don’t sell a bristlebot kit and we haven’t covered this in print.

  • AndyL

    This is a lot of hate for the simple crime of crediting “dedicated tinkerers on YouTube” instead of EMS specifically by name.

    They took a good idea, improved it, and are selling kits for kids. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. In fact, the majority of the posts on this blog praise that behavior to the high heavens.

    It would certainly be better and more correct to credit people by name, but I wouldn’t get too excited by it. People ‘in the know’, know that EMS made these before Klutz, and the rest don’t care.

    -Andy

  • John JOnes

    Sad day indeeed!

  • Anonymous

    Did Make TV credit this video posted on YouTube over a year ago during the DTV antenna segment? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWQhlmJTMzw

  • Phillip Torrone

    hello anonymous commenter – there is a big difference between selling a book/toy called “bristlebots” which is clearly based on a previous well known project called “bristlebots” and a how-to video segment on how to make a coat hanger antenna – i’m sure you realize that.

  • Anonymous

    How is selling a book/toy different from selling advertising/building your brand? I am not against either Make TV using the antenna idea or Klutz using the bristlebots idea because in both cases they’re improving the idea and exposing it to a wider audience. I guess I just don’t understand why this story should be on sticky at the top of the blog, let’s move on and get some more interesting stories about cool projects instead.

  • .:oomlout:. – Stuart

    Sorry to add to the stack of pennies but a tower two taller shouldn’t hurt anyone.

    This strikes me as a potentially great story, online maker sensation transitions to real world product. One that can fill book and toy stores everywhere. Introducing kids to the DIY and Maker ethos one birthday present at a time.

    As for not contacting EMS (a little laboratory i am particularly fond of), to attribute it to malice strikes me as short sited. The reality is there simply does not exist a recognized transition method between maker idea and mass marketed product. This is an opportunity to begin establishing such a protocol letting large companies know that approaching a maker at the earliest stages of product development will not result in demands for large royalties, but instead mutually beneficial agreements.

    In terms of how this will most likely pan out? Klutz is not a silly company they will recognize that having EMS on board is the right path. Mutuially beneficial terms will be agreed to and it is my hope that this story can turn from one of idea stealing outrage, to product transition triumph.

    Stuart McFarlan

  • Phillip Torrone

    hello again anonymous commenter – here is how making a book/toy called “bristlebots” based on an original project by the same name (bristlebots) function and spirit are different.

    1. a how-to video segment that doesn’t take the specific name, the exact same word-for-word title is very different. showing “how to” do something is like a recipe, think of it like a cooking show – sure, you can show how to make a pizza but once you call it BobsFamousPizzaStandPizza (based on an original called BobsFamousPizzaStandPizza) and make a book about it and sell pizza named the same thing it does change things, it’s no longer a cooking show it’s a for-sale product based on something someone else created.

    that might fine and legal, even if it’s not “right” – but i’m interested in one thing – does klutz / scholastic feel the the maker should get credit. it’s the right thing to do, is that what they think?

    the klutz book isn’t a recipe book – it’s a specific book/toy by the same name of the original project – klutz / scholastic did not contact the maker and it appears they did know of the project from 2 years ago. we are still waiting for comment, so far – nothing.

    2. as far as this story being on the blog for much longer, it will be off the page in a day or less – that’s how it goes.

  • Phillip Torrone

    @stuart – exactly. i look forward to my next post if/when klutz/scholastic responds.

    when this happened i held off posting anything, i contacted -everyone- via email and phone – nothing, no responses. had they responded with something like you’ve described the post would have been something along the lines of “Lovely day for makers – book from Klutz and Scholastic celebrates “BristleBots” – that’s still the post we’d all like to see.

    i don’t think was in malice either, once i saw it i knew this would eventually “blow up” as others noticed it and i saw an opportunity to quickly step in and help resolve it. so far klutz, the law firm, the PR group are silent.

    EMS has worked with others in the past (including MAKE) and it’s always worked out great for everyone.

  • AndyL

    Klutz is probably remaining silent while they wait for highly paid crisis-management consultants to figure out what happened and whether or not someone is going to sue them.

    Phillip Torrone Said : “once i saw it i knew this would eventually “blow up” as others noticed it and i saw an opportunity to quickly step in and help resolve it.”

    If you were trying to slow down the knee-jerk angry reactions, the topic of the article probably could have been chosen a bit better. You’d think it was The Day The Making Died or something.

  • Phillip Torrone

    @AndyL – the title to my emails and message i left for them was “question / comment for an article on the “bristlebot” book & accessories—“.

    the first post on the web about this issue was from DVICE and the title was…

    “Invasion of the Bristlebots: Unauthorized book takes toothbrush robots to the toy store”.

    but now that klutz and scholastic are claiming they 100% invented this before EMS, but coincidentally came up with the same exact name, the same exact everything all in the same year and are now “surprised” – please suggest another title for the post that you think is more appropriate.

  • Anon

    I’ve done work at Klutz for a number of years, and I can tell you, they have no qualms about using other people’s ideas. They pore over competitors products, take surreptitious photos at trade shows, and pay me to develop ideas for them that are not credited in their books.

    They also develop a lot of their own ideas, but ever since they were bought out by Scholastic (a publicly traded company that needs to answer to shareholders and maintain “growth”), they’ve been under increasing pressure to sell more and more. BristleBots was definitely in the works in 2007, and probably originated from the YouTube video (though I wasn’t there and don’t know for sure), but unless the name is trademarked, or the design is patented, or they are copying the EXACT bots by EMS, they’ve got the law on their side. They’re pretty careful about checking up on stuff like that and already removed a tool from an upcoming book which they can’t produce on their own because it’s patented.

  • Michael C

    Given that this is not a legal issue (no patent and no trademark) it’s just an ethical issue and seems to hinge on whether Klutz and the author came up with the idea independently or copied it from EMS. It’s quite likely that only Klutz and Pat Murphy know the full truth.

    If they were inspired by the EMS work, they should certainly not take credit themselves as they seem to have done. It’s reasonable for EMS to be upset by that. I hope they’ve tried to resolve this with a quiet and friendly chat to Klutz before involving all of the internet. The right thing for Klutz to do would be to credit EMS by name, but failing to do so is less of an issue than taking false credit as EMS have given their ideas freely. Sometimes a popular idea can grow to a point where the originator’s name is not so relevant. For example, do we expect some sort of attribution on any article that describes putting Mentos into a bottle of diet Coke? I’ve got no idea who thought of that.

    On the other hand, if they were not inspired by EMS’s work and their ideas developed simultaneously by coincidence, they should not bow to pressure from EMS to credit them. It would be polite to mention EMS’s work and I can’t see how it would hurt, but if EMS pushes them it would be the equivalent of EMS taking undue credit.

    Ultimately, this can only be fully resolved by all parties being entirely honest and taking a mature approach. I’d like to think that a creative technical lab like EMS and a company like Klutz that publishes some very cool books are the ideal people to manage this in a responsible way.

  • kendrickgoss

    This whole thing is actually happening in the best way possible. This product provides the maker community with an excellent opportunity to confront a *completely unambiguous* example of unattributed borrowing of product idea – even the name has not been changed from the original post.

    I agree that a discussion of intellectual property here is essentially a non-starter. Patent and trademarks cost thousands of dollars to prosecute, takes time (years), THEN requires a business process to make use of (e.g. manufacturing or licensing/royalties etc). The Open Source community and many of the makers who put things up on sites like Make and EMS opt out of that path for many good reasons. This collective decision turns out to be its core strength.

    HOWEVER, what IS CLEAR is that the currency of Open Source is public acknowledgment and credit where it is due. Since this will not be the last example of a good idea taken from these sites without attribution, we have the opportunity to let Klutz/Scholastic know, in a civil and public manner, that attribution is clearly required here and would be appropriate. It would be a small matter for Klutz/Scholastic to modify the book to include this in future printings/editions.

    The Maker community BENEFITS when companies use their ideas and inventions to make products and kits that reach a large audience, and the companies using these ideas, in turn, benefit from proper acknowledgement of these ideas by building relationships and fruitful collaborations with the inventors. Emphasizing this symbiosis in these discussions is consistent with the spirit of the Open Source community and could serve as an example for successful resolution of these issues with other companies in the future.

  • Anonymous

    IMO Klutz will continue to avoid responsibility until someone makes a loud enough noise. There are at least two other books where this holds true and needs to also be addressed. Scholastic should carefully look at Klutz’s sources for their books and learn how or why they have not compensated the true authors or originators.

  • Anonymous

    Quote:” Posted by: Anon on February 19, 2009 at 6:54 PM

    Business as usual, but legally covered

    I’ve done work at Klutz for a number of years, and I can tell you, they have no qualms about using other people’s ideas. They pore over competitors products, take surreptitious photos at trade shows, and pay me to develop ideas for them that are not credited in their books.

    They also develop a lot of their own ideas, but ever since they were bought out by Scholastic (a publicly traded company that needs to answer to shareholders and maintain “growth”), they’ve been under increasing pressure to sell more and more. BristleBots was definitely in the works in 2007, and probably originated from the YouTube video (though I wasn’t there and don’t know for sure), but unless the name is trademarked, or the design is patented, or they are copying the EXACT bots by EMS, they’ve got the law on their side. They’re pretty careful about checking up on stuff like that and already removed a tool from an upcoming book which they can’t produce on their own because it’s patented.”

    ITA with this post!

  • mlange.myopenid.com

    IANAL, but from what I’ve read, as far as trademark and copyright goes, it’s the first “published” instance that takes the cake. Since EvilMadScientist had “published” theirs first, and this book is just being “published” now, they win by at least a year.

    /Just idle speculation.

    I’d use Archive.org to back up the dates in EMS’s blog, to counter any argument of ‘date-forging’

    //Even more fun? EMS has a copyright on its footer, not a CC, etc.

  • anonymous

    No offense to the Evil Mad Scientist site, which I really like, but the belief that the idea of putting a vibrating motor on a toothbrush head was thought up by them is absurd. I remember people doing this exact thing back in my college days, and that was 8 years ago. People have been putting motors on all variety of objects for vibration based locomotion for as long as motors have existed.

    I don’t say this to put down the Evil Mad Scientist guys, but rather to hopefully let a bit of hot air out of the community’s collective head. Plenty of ideas have existed long before someone posted them on an internet blog.

  • Phillip Torrone

    @anonymous – klutz has a book by the exact name, exact project and now are claiming they developed it before EMS.

    there aren’t many “new” ideas – only things that build upon the past, but what was new was the name “bristlebots” and the first documented instance of this project was EMS.

    crediting them (or not) is what this discussion is about.

    EMS has said… “locomotion by ratcheting bristles isn’t remotely new — it occurs in nature”

  • Anonymous

    Quote: Posted by: Beverly Bogus on February 19, 2009 at 3:38 PM

    In the craft industry, Klutz is infamous for appropriating ideas from others and turning them into books and kits, without bothering to explore partnerships, licenses, or any other business arrangements with the talented designers who originally created them.

    Some people are clever, and some people just exploit the cleverness of others. I hope I live long enough to see this come back around and bite them. Hard.”
    End Quote

    Beverly Bogus, I hope that day comes soon! This is certainly not the first time. I wonder how much of their current line has been “appropriated” in that way?

  • jay silver

    I’ve interacted with Pat Murphy and find her values to be strong and her commitment to creativity high. I would guess that there is an explanation.

  • Anonymous

    Two words: Simultaneous Invention. History is rife with instances of it. And the word ‘bristlebots’ is suggested by the materials used. This is definitely something that could have been created by several different people at the same time, and named with the same name. Let’s not assume Klutz intentionally stole or misused anyone’s design or invention. The design is VERY simple. It’s well open to simultaneous development.

  • Anonymous

    Simultaneous Invention

    Unlikely

  • Anonymous

    The originator of the idea was not Pat Murphy. Klutz’s editors tend to put their names on books whether it’s their idea or not.

  • Orpheline

    Do we know how much Pat Murphy contributed to the actual development of the Klutz project? I’m wondering if she worked on the project itself, or if she just wrote the book for the project?

    I ask this because some people have posted to defend her. If Klutz contacted her and said, “We’ve got a great new project – please write the book!” she may not have been aware of Evil Mad Scientist’s work. Kudos to her friends for their support!

    Phillip – I think you’re striking exactly the right note on this issue: this is a question of proper attribution, not lawsuits. Thank you for bringing the issue to everyone’s attention, and for trying to keep the conversation focused.

  • Kent KB

    Bravo for this open forum, this is how a problem should be aired/solved….
    Make: me think.

    This may have the most comments ever!

    Thank you, PT and Makezine

  • Anonymous

    Pat Murphy works in-house at Klutz. They didn’t just call her up about the project. What Klutz does is hand the project to the editor. The editor may or may not know who developed the idea or how it came to the table. Maybe the parent company Scholastic, perhaps needs to scrutinize Klutz a little more closely.

  • Nick Taylor

    Well I’ve written two blog articles about Bristlebots, and didn’t mention Evil Mad Scientists as the originators (and I take pains to cite the entire chain of attribution if I can… in fact I’ve written a program to generate the HTML)

    … because I didn’t know it was them. There was suddenly a rash of these things on youtube… dozens of them… It’s not necessarily surprising that the originators didn’t get attributed.

    Attribution is a) polite and b) good blog politics because you get to ping/befriend the originator.

    “Ownership” of ideas is a total non-starter though. Utterly doomed, and all this righteous indignation about Klutz or whatever “stealing” someone else’s idea is just as pathetic as the RIAA trying to make out that a download equates to a lost sale.

    Intellectual property is stupid. Give it up.

  • Anonymous

    Are these people the Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell of our generation? Or would you prefer Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler for comparison?

    In other words, has Bristlebots become the telephone and gas engine or our generation?

    Which came first? McDonalds or Burger King? Get serious! This is no more an issue than trying to argue who created soda pop first. It’s just another flavor.

    I for one welcome the popularity that Klutz might bring to this awesome and entertaining science experiment.

  • Kim

    I agree to give credit where credit is due, but:
    You’re seriously arguing about a used toothbrush head, a battery and a motor?! While this “bot” as funny as it is useless do you think nobody would have been able to come up with this simple of a concept before?

    [quote]
    Intellectual property is stupid. Give it up.
    [/quote]

    I second that.

  • Anonymous

    ^^^Then why didn’t you invent it if it was so easy?

  • Anonymous

    Keep the pressure up. If you Google “klutz” this story is the #1 entry after the ones for klutz.com 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!

  • WestfW

    I dunno. Seems to me that Klutz doesn’t claim significant originality in their books, and most of them are based on tried and true and OLD ideas/crafts/etc.
    Likewise EMSL doesn’t claim to have invented anything; just a clever implementation of one of those old ideas. Although I do find it a particularly “fresh” implementation!

    The Klutz implementation is uncomfortably close to the EMSL one, for politeness’s sake. I suspect they’re on ok ground legally, and I suspect they’ve done substantial “value add” to the whole thing, what with book and molded parts and such. It would be NICE if klutz did better attribution (yeah, let’s see what happens if a childrens’ book publisher says “be sure to visit the Evil Mad Scientists’ web page!”), but…

  • Nikoli

    I don’t have a problem with the book or the kit. Seems to me not even EMS has a problem with that…

    It is the right thing to do. To say EMS inspired us. Specifically, by name, with contact info for them. If that had happened, even without prior contact, this would NOT be an issue at all. The book would be celebrated by makers(or at least the non-greedy ones).

    Books/kits/publishing/marketing/distribution all take lots of time and lots of money… they also MAKE lots of money. What Klutz has done is NOT illegal, it’s just generally a dirtbag thing to do.

    I saw a “Pirate Ship” rocker in coverage of the ToyFair on another blog (woot.com I think)… I wanna make one of those… I’m not gonna call the guy, but I ain’t gonna sell it either. And I certainly ain’t gonna make thousands and sell them. Why? Not because I don’t have the resources, but because I’m not a dirtbag.

  • SteelToad

    So when Klutz went to go market this and get it ready to be published, nobody even googled “bristlebot” to see what was out there to make sure there weren’t any issues ???

  • Mike Farren

    Like it says – this isn’t about money. EMS hasn’t asked Klutz to cut them in on the profits from the book. It’s only about the attribution, the credit. Even there, nobody has asked Klutz to say that EMS invented the concept – even EMS says they didn’t. It’s just – and only – about courtesy. EMS popularized the concept this time around, it would be a nice thing and the proper thing for Klutz to acknowlege that, especially if that’s *all* they have to do to make the situation right. Give everybody a break and wait to see how things turn out.

    Is Klutz’s Pat Murphy the same Pat Murphy who used to work for the Exploratorium and who is a reasonably well respected SF author? If so, I know that Pat Murphy, and this doesn’t sound like something she’d be doing consciously and cold-bloodedly.

  • Mark Lazarus

    Honestly, who buys Klutz books anyway. Isn’t half the fun harvesting discarded electronic ephemera and building one from scavenged materials? I have on several occasions glanced at ideas in a Klutz book, placed it back on the shelf, and gone to Radio Shack to buy parts to do the same thing for the fraction of the cost of the book.

    To sum up the discussion:

    Good Maker Ethics: Always give credit where credit is due.

    If you do not like companies that capitalize on other peoples ideas, do not buy their products.

  • Mike

    “Ok, my head is spinning. Comment away…”

    Here’s my comment:

    Scholastic & Klutz are World Class IDIOTS if they think for one microsecond that they can pretend they developed this idea independently.

    This is such a blatantly obvious copy of EMS’ work that I literally laughed out loud when I read their statement claiming that “…Bristlebots…was developed internally”. Seriously, are you kidding? Do you think ANY judge is going to buy that bullshit??

    Shame on you, Klutz, and the same goes for Scholastic. What a bunch of Cheaty McCheatersons.

    Mike

  • Anonymous

    ^^^HA HA. Love your comment. They are Cheater McCheatersons! Nyah Nyah!

  • Anonymous

    Posted by: Mark Lazarus on February 20, 2009 at 8:40 AM

    Tesla vs Marconi

    Honestly, who buys Klutz books anyway. Isn’t half the fun harvesting discarded electronic ephemera and building one from scavenged materials? I have on several occasions glanced at ideas in a Klutz book, placed it back on the shelf, and gone to Radio Shack to buy parts to do the same thing for the fraction of the cost of the book.

    To sum up the discussion:

    Good Maker Ethics: Always give credit where credit is due.

    If you do not like companies that capitalize on other peoples ideas, do not buy their products.

    Alot of people buy the books. The employess there make hefty salaries and a big profit is made for Scholastic. So I guess more than a few people buy their books…And people need to know about this as Klutz has been capitalizing on other peoples ideas for many years.

  • Marc Pfister

    Anybody remember the Tente (the Spanish Lego) models of boats that used directional bristles and a vibrating power pack? The series was called Mar Motor – here’s some pics of the one I have (not my pics though)

    http://tinyurl.com/c2c783

    If you look closely at the instructions, you can see the brushes installed in step 7.

  • unjust
  • Anonymous

    Klutz sends people to the Maker Faires to get new ideas…I wonder if there is any way to ban them? Or make sure they team up with an inventor for an idea they wish to publish?

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t Klutz invent juggling?

  • Anonymous

    “Didn’t Klutz invent juggling?”

    And also bean bags.

  • Anonymous

    I, for one, am boycotting all Klutz products until they come up with a satisfactory explanation.

  • Anonymous

    The fact is that Klutz uses ideas from designers and does not compensate them fairly if at all. The Bristlebots folks deserve royalty. After all Klutz is making money of of it. I’m done with them and I am about ready to tell my own story about Klutz to the public…

  • Phillip Torrone

    hello anonymous commenter, a few people have shared stories with us (good and bad) working with klutz & scholastic.

  • Anonymous

    Great. I will look up your email and share my story with you later on this week. It’s a long one so I will need a little time to compose it.

  • Anonymous

    Go after Scholastic and Klutz. This is nothing new. Klutz has been ripping off people for years. Take a look at the Flower Fairies book, for example. That idea was stolen, too.

  • R4RGuy

    Hi,

    It seems that 2-years to design a BristleBot and get it to market is a really long time … the CAD drawings for the plastic molds should’ve been done in one day at most … It might take another day to make the molds … and a third day to bang-out 10,000 BristleBot plastic shells. Then stick the product into their assembly lines and build a few hundred or a thousand to be ready for sales … So why didn’t Klutz have these on the market for Christmas 2007?

  • Peter Nau

    On this site…
    http://www.klutz.com/Invasion-of-the-Bristlebots
    you will find
    “With grateful acknowledgement to Evil Mad Scientist
    Laboratories. Check out their bristlebots here. ”
    http://www.klutz.com/common/images/extras/bristlebots_evilmad.pdf

    Cheers,
    ~Peter

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