I quit my corporate job in 2006 to take my shot at the Inventor’s Dream. Eight years later, our savings depleted and my kids’ college unfunded, I took one last swing before trudging back to the corporate world.
I aimed at solving the water balloon problem. My kids and I have always enjoyed playing with water balloons. We would spend hours filling up thousands of balloons and I kept thinking that there had to be a better way to do this. After years of intermittent experiments, I put a straw in a balloon and sealed the balloon with a small rubber band. It worked! I decided to call it Bunch O Balloons and I filed for a patent. I brought it to a toy fair but didn’t get an offer, so I put it up on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website. It went viral. After a few days, we raised over $900,000. A few weeks later I went on the Today Show and threw water balloons at Carson Daily.
Soon after we started production, a friend called and told us that they saw Bunch O Balloons on a commercial but it was called “Balloon Bonanza”. By then my patent had been issued, so I sent a cease and desist letter to Telebrands, the company violating my patent. They ignored it so I filed a lawsuit along with Zuru, the company Bunch O Balloons was licensed to.
Nine months later we got a preliminary injunction. It wasn’t over but they had to stop copying my inventions. But the next year they came out with another copy called “Battle Balloons”. We filed another lawsuit and got another preliminary injunction, but the next year they came out with another copy, “Easy Einsteins”.
We got another injunction but meanwhile, they went back to the patent office and asked the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to take my patents back, and they did. Without due process, the patent office overturned the federal court decisions and took away my property.
I headed straight to the patent office and led the first-ever protest there in which seven inventors and myself burned our patents on the sidewalk. After that, things started to turn around. We won our first lawsuit and the PTAB changed their mind and gave me my patents back. Telebrands eventually offered a settlement and we took it. Sadly, my success is an outlier. Most inventors don’t have the funds to fight for as long as I did which is why I have moved to Alexandria with my family to lobby for inventors’ rights.