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[Editor's note - ThinkGeek resolved this issue perfectly and immediately, nicely done. Feel free to read the details below - pt] I received the new ThinkGeek catalog today, I really like them and their stuff – they’re one of the best geek culture curator shops online, as well as developing their own merchandise. That said – I was surprised to see ThinkGeek claiming they invented LED throwies (check out the image above) it’s from the catalog, page 22. It’s on the lower right hand side of the photo above, the little monkey light bulb thing that says “Invented at ThinkGeek”.

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LED throwies made their first appearance and were popularized and developed by the Graffiti Research Lab a division of the Eyebeam R&D OpenLab in February 2006 (Wikipedia page). It’s also in Make – Volume 06 – LED Throwies (Page 116).

The ThinkGeek online site it doesn’t say they “Invented at ThinkGeek” like the print catalog does (see 1st image on this post) – here’s what it does say.

B2C2 Led Magnetic Digital Graffiti

Times have changed since you got caught for doodling that cute girl’s name on your desk in elementary school. Now you can mark your territory in a non-permanent electronic fashion with the LED Magnetic Digital Graffiti. This set of 20 different LEDs each has a battery and a magnet attached. Pull the tab to activate, then toss them on any ferrous metal surface… they stick and glow brightly announcing to everyone in the vicinity that you were indeed there. But make sure you stick the LED Magnetic Digital Graffiti on stuff you own, or are able to remove them later… because gone are the days when you can post funny battery powered LED signs all over Boston and get away with it.

In 2008 I spotted this “LED “Art Object” Kit” and since 2006 there have been many uses of LED throwies in music videos to commercial merchandise, but this is the first time I’ve seen someone claim they invented them.

Maybe ThinkGeek added something like a pull tab, but that’s been there from the start too. I’m pretty sure the folks at GRL don’t care or don’t mind if someone sells these (it’s “open source”…) but I’d like to see ThinkGeek consider giving credit on the page somewhere and maybe reconsider the “Invented by ThinkGeek” claim. Lastly, I wonder if all the people who didn’t like when GRL made these will also be as vocal towards ThinkGeek or maybe they just didn’t like GRL. I’ve sent ThinkGeek an email and tweet’ed to them, I’ll post any comments they have here. I’ll continue to be a ThinkGeek customer too.

Update: 12/2/2009 9:45am ET – email reply! “Thank you for that link. I have forwarded the information to the product manager, and if the claim is founded, we will take appropriate action. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us. -Leah”

Updated: 12/2/2009 12:02pm ET – ThinkGeek does it up proper! Here’s what they said…

Our apologies to the original geniuses at Graffiti Research Lab behind
the LED throwie! The problem is we currently have only one “Invented by
ThinkGeek” badge for the products that we manufacture. So while we made
improvements in our LED Magnetic Digital Graffiti–like a special
battery housing, and manufacturing the set for a reasonable price–we
obviously we didn’t originate the concept.

The good news is the LED throwie page on our site never sported the
“Invented by ThinkGeek” logo, but unfortunately we can’t remove logos
from print materials that are already out in the mail. (Let us know if
anyone invents that.)

Again, sorry for the mixup, and thanks for making us think hard about
how we’ll use that logo! We’d never mean to take credit for such an
awesome idea where it wasn’t due.

ThinkGeek also updated the product page with links to GRL and Instructables. Perfect job – thanks ThinkGeek!

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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