East Lansing, MI asked in Patents (Intellectual Property) for Michigan

Q: Why does Fidgetland Rizzle go to Shark Tank without a patent?

I'm a law school student and am doing research on patents. I'm wondering why the fidget toy appear on Shark Tank without getting a patent first? Now there are a lot of similar looking toys.

1 Lawyer Answer
Peter D. Mlynek
Peter D. Mlynek
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: I've seen a few of the Shark Tank episodes, but unfortunately not one with a fidget toy. Let me try to answer as much as I can though.

As you know, for Sharks having a patent (or filed a patent application), is important for some products. But not for all products or companies.

There are generally two reasons why a company, any company, does not have a patent. Either the company cannot get a patent on the product that they are producing, and/or patents are not that important.

It is possible that, for some reason, Rizzle was not patentable. It might have been obvious in view of other fidget spinners.

It is also possible that Fidgetland thought that a patent is unimportant, or not worth the effort. Many business start-ups don't consider patenting their product until it is too late. It just did not cross the company owner's mind.

In this case, it is also likely that any particular fidget product does not have a long product lifecycle to warrant getting a patent. People see Razzle, buy it, get tired of it a few weeks later, and go on to something else. Although in March 2017 fidget spinners were flying off shelves (see, for example, https://www.ft.com/content/5ead667c-3c0a-11e7-821a-6027b8a20f23 ), by June 2017 fidget spinners were considered dead (see, for example, http://fortune.com/2017/06/13/the-fidget-spinner-trend-is-ending-and-you-missed-it/ ).

So why did Barbara Corcoran invest $50K in Fidgetland? (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/09/why-barbara-corcoran-invested-50000-in-fidgetland-on-shark-tank.html ) Perhaps she wanted to cash in on the fidget spinner craze before it died. Or, she thought that company has some legs. Remember, Sharks don't invest in any particular product, but in a company. So although Razzle may be long forgotten before the patent issues in 3 or 4 years, Fidgetland would have hopped onto different products already.

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