July 10, 2017
I keep hearing about fidget spinners being the current fad and see children spinning something on their fingers every time I go out. Why are these things so popular and just what are they? I asked the child waiting in line behind me at the bowling alley. The child stated, “It’s a toy that you can spin around and do all sorts of tricks. I’ll show you!” to which the child’s parent responded, “No, she does NOT want to see your tricks. Stop it!” I had the opportunity to see the toy in action and explained, but I was still not sure why it has become so popular. So I, of course, had to do some research.
Fidget spinners are spinning devices that have a bearing positioned in the center of rotational arms or blades. The majority of these devices is depicted and produced with three arms, similar to the shape of a propeller. Fidget spinners have a place you can grip or balance as the arms spin around on the bearing. There can be variations on the number of blades and how the blades look. As for popularity, fidget spinners seem to be addictive because of the sensations that come from holding a fast, spinning gadget. When the fidget spinner is tilted, the various spinning forces undulate in your hand.
As to the origins of the spinning devices, one articles points to US Patent 476,825 granted on June 14, 1892 for a spinning toy. This patent claims a conical cap with an outwardly-flaring flange with a shoulder upon which a disk can be placed and spun around.
Multiple articles credit Catherine Hettinger of Orlando, Florida, with inventing the fidget spinner in US Patent 5,591,062 granted on January 7, 1997. Upon reviewing the granted patent, the fidget spinners that are popular right now do not really seem to reflect what is claimed in the Hettinger patent either, which is basically a circular disc with a dome where the finger would balance the spinner.
Scott McCoskery of Suquamish, Washington, claims to have come up with the current concept of fidget spinners back in 2014. Articles note that McCoskery has filed for a patent, which appears yet to be published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but has a registered federal trademark under Torqbar, registration number 5,104,961. McCoskery’s high-end spinners on his Torqbar website reflect the currently popular fidget spinners.
The popular interest in fidget spinners and the citations to multiple patents demonstrate that devices that may seem the same can actually be unique and distinguishable with the help of a skilled patent attorney. While the general public may accept that the currently popular fidget spinners originated from Catherine Hettinger, a skilled patent attorney can conduct a detailed analysis of whether the claims of the patent actually cover the spinner devices that have been so ubiquitous.
Author: Maki Imakura, Patent Attorney
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