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BristleBot day 4 for us… A little update – We received our first email back from Scholastic today…

From: “Good, Kyle”
Date: February 20, 2009 11:21:40 AM EST
Subject: RE: “bristlebots” book from klutz

As we said, 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. Stay tuned…. Kyle

As of today (2/20/2009) here is the only public statement from Scholastic & Klutz.

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.

It’s not about copyright, trademarks or patents, it’s about what type of company Klutz and Scholastic wants to be as they enter the world of makers – Klutz and Scholastic saw an original idea in 2007 called “Bristlebots” from Evil Mad Scientists and are now claiming they developed the *exact* same project, design and name “Bristlebots” all in secret and all in the same year. Now they are “genuinely surprised”. Later, the Scholastic & Klutz marketing team added a video to the Evil Mad Scientist YouTube page to promote their book and project by the same exact name and design.

We also have emails out to the author of the book, Pat Murphy. We’ll keep you posted. Be sure to check out the comments on the original post.

Update: There is a quote from Pat Murphy of Klutz / Scholastic on BoingBoing

We (that’s me and some other folks at Klutz) will be talking to Lenore asap. (Today if all goes well.) I’ll keep you posted.

Update 2: Here’s an update from Lenore, Evil Mad Scientists…

(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.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. Gary says:

    We build larger versions of these called “Dougalls” using dollar store scrub brushes, based on plans from a book that I have in my collection whose name I can’t recall just now. I don’t know where the name comes from, but the author talks about a man in Japan who built a full scale one to drive. Imagine the ride?!!

  2. Gary says:

    Dougalls are described in Neil Downie’s book “Vacuum Bazookas, etc.” 2001. Just in case you wanted to look it up ;-)

  3. m says:

    The spread of a good idea is good.

    The spread of a good idea that you came up with should stroke your ego.

    The spread of a good idea with your name plastered on it would certainly stroke your ego more, but I wonder why everyone needs their ego stroked so much.

  4. csalzman says:

    I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if this one takes a while to sort out. Public statements by companies oftentimes have to go through layers of approval.

    That said, the fact that Klutz is even exploring this is a good sign in my mind.

    Thanks for staying on top of this, Philip. It’s an incredibly interesting story!

  5. paolo- says:

    Yay! I’m happy things are actually happening surrounding this issue.

    I personally don’t get the people who say EMS should just let it slide and not care about their intellectual property. They just want recognition for their work. I don’t see any harm in it. Sure, for the most part, making stuff should be satisfying on it’s own, but this is the kind of thing that makes it worth while. Also, I think it’s just common sense to give credit where credit is due.

    Furthermore, it gives lots of credibility to the guys at EMS and to EMS. Sure, many makers have day jobs that are unconnected to making, but to those that are engineers, designers or other job that is connected with making and creating, their hobby can become something that sets them apart on a resume.

    Also, making a big deal out of this issue makes all the makers of things that then post it online prone to get more respect in the future.

    peace and respect, lew.

  6. K says:

    With copyright and patent ‘squating’ out of control by so much of the corporate world, I think it should be obvious why this is about more than just having one’s ego stroked. While Klutz may (as unlikely as it is) have acted innocently, and not actually intended to steal the name or idea, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine what could happen if this sort of thing went unchecked.

    I could easily imagine, if not through Klutz/Scholastic/Bristlebot then some other pilfered invention, a company copyrighting a name or idea that they caught wind of on the internet, and then later pursuing those Makers who would use that name/invention in court. There are still plenty of courts and law makers in the land that are far friendlier to corporations than individuals.

    Basically, it’s not about ego, it’s about protecting the works of Makers from being co-opted into a system that is currently and decidedly anti-Maker. What happens to the name “Bristlbot” then, if nothing is done? Does Klutz suddenly retain ownership of it as a copyrighted name? I’m guessing it wouldn’t be hard for them to do.

    Do you think people would feel differently if Microsoft, Apple, or GM were pulling this sort of shenanigans?

  7. Jtheletter says:

    Granted, there’s still some facts to be clarified yet, but here’s what I see right now.
    Lenore’s update saying “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.” seems to imply that Klutz is acknowledging that EMS played a role in the original design of the Bristlebots. (‘played a role’ meaning anything from inspiring the Klutz team to being the sole originators)

    But Klutz’s original statement “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.” is in direct contradiction to the above.

    So which is it Klutz? Did you develop this 100% internally and deny that EMS did it first/influenced your team, or is the statement that it was developed internally a lie?

    IMHO public corporations should be held legally accountable for disseminating false statements. Again, we need some more clarification still but if it turns out that Klutz did borrow/copy/steal this idea from EMS then a full public apology and accountability for their lie is needed.

  8. Gary says:

    Just wondering; if EMS developed these after 2001, did they acknowledge Neil Downie’s design? Or is it just the name you are all carrying on about?

  9. Gary says:

    After all, a Bristlebot by any other name is still a Dougall ;-)

  10. Phillip Torrone says:

    @gary – putting it on a toothbrush and calling it “bristlebot” was new and unique and EMS is the only and first example on this known.

    now that scholastic and klutz appear to be working towards crediting EMS, i think it’s obvious that they have reevaluated their statement that they invented the exact same thing with the same name at the same time.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Of course they are now working towards issuing credit although if the books are already printed and being shipped it will be on and if there are any reprints. Klutz should also be paying a royalty. Klutz gives away credit like candy. They are making money off of it and employing many people in the making of it. They also need to compensate the person whose idea it was.

  12. ehrichweiss says:

    According to someone else commenting on the original post about this, the idea of using a vibrator motor with a toothbrush like the bristlebot goes back to the 1980′s.

    If this is true then the only thing that EMS have claim to is the name and they didn’t register it to protect it so I have a hard time worrying about that if this is all they can complain about.

    If that’s the case then we need to stop spreading all the misinformation about EMS AND Klutz because we’re demonizing Klutz for stealing an idea from someone that it may very well not have originated from in the first place. Yes, we can give them some hell about the name but EMS might take it as a lesson to protect this type of stuff in the future if they feel that strongly about them.

    Note, I’m not on either side because I know this grapevine.(paraphrased from Johnny Dangerously)

  13. Phillip Torrone says:

    @ehrichweiss – things have changed, scholastic and klutz appear to be crediting EMSL. giant companies like scholastic do not do this for fun, it’s likely because it’s pretty clear where names and ideas come from – they’re doing the right thing and i hope to put a new post up soon celebrating this with all the makers who helped bring this issue to our attention.

    just because someone does not register a name, doesn’t mean it’s not protected (in some way) – it’s not black and white and that’s likely why scholastic decided to do the right thing and not risk proceeding without credit. just my guess…

  14. ehrichweiss says:

    Part of what you said misses my point though. What if it’s truly been around since the 1980′s? EMS have nothing to complain about in that regard, neither does anyone in our community. And miniaturizing something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s original by any means, ya know.

    As for “stealing” the name, that’s actually even more grey than you might suppose. For example, not officially protecting it and allowing others to use the name freely could put the name into the public domain. This is why Google has gone out of their way to avoid the public use of “googling” when referring to using their search engine because the term Google would become a generic term referring to any search engine. If that happened to ‘bristlebot’ then it’s as much for Klutz to use as EMS.

    For example, if EMS aren’t licensing the name or connected directly with this site:

    http://www.bristlebot.co.uk/

    then they’ve likely lost all claim on the name already because they’ve allowed a commercial venture to use the name and design as a generic term.

  15. Nikoli says:

    Is it me, or does the “spy tech” cover art seem rather appropriate for the topic at hand… well, at least the way some feel…

    So glad Klutz has acted quickly to fix this. Good job.

  16. Anonymous says:


    gotta love politics…

  17. briansawyer.net says:

    Pat Murphy, editor at Klutz, just weighed in with a thoughtful response, which I’m still trying to digest. Everything in that post sounds right and true, but it doesn’t really mesh with the message that preceded it. I really want to believe it, but could editorial at Klutz really be so insulated (obviously, their marketing department is not) to keep them from seeing the community surrounding the invention on which they’re publishing? I know I’m jaded, and perhaps I’ve been too close to seeing how these sorts of decisions are made in trade/craft publishing, but I’m still left with a bad taste in my mouth.

  18. briansawyer.net says:

    The URL in my previous message somehow got lost. Here’s Pat’s response:

    http://onourmindsatscholastic.blogspot.com/2009/02/message-from-pat-murphy-editor-at-klutz.html

  19. Phillip Torrone says:

    @ehrichweiss – the point of this discussion was if klutz & scholastic should credit EMSL, at first it appeared that they would not – and now they are. i don’t think a legal discussion is productive, this is about people and the right thing for a company to do…

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