Buckyballs magnet magnates bully scrappy Zen Magnets: video response

In this youtubed open letter, a representative from Zen Magnets (small-fry makers of little round powerful magnets you can use to make interesting shapes) replies to a legal threat from Buckyballs (leading makers of little round powerful magnets you can use to make interesting shapes). It starts with a recorded voicemail from Buckyballs CEO Jake Bronstein threatening to sue Zen Magnets for selling a kit containing both Buckyballs and Zen Magnets on eBay with the claim that Zen Magnets are manufactured to a higher tolerance, are stronger, and have a brighter finish. From there, the Zen Magnets rep does a wonderful job illustrating the validity of his claims -- and making Buckyballs look like an anti-competitive bully who fights dirty with threats instead of superior products. According to this Slashdot article, the initial YouTube upload was taken down by a bogus DMCA copyright claim from Buckyballs CEO Jake Bronstein, which lends credence to the "bullying jerk" impression the Zen Magnets video delivers.

Basically, this video's got everything: consumer advocacy, magnets, science, copyright abuse. It's about the classiest response I can imagine to a legal threat. Let's hope Zen sells a lot of magnets off the back of it.

Zen Magnets vs Buckyballs Comparison Video


  1. I’m emailing ThinkGeek to tell them that BuckyBalls is violating the hacker ethos and that they should drop them as a product.

    1. Im all for it. ThinkGeek is one of my favorite sites, and I would be disappointed to see them doing business with a person who would sue rather than compete.

  2. I actually picked up some Zen Magnets off of Deals.Woot leading to another site a while back. After having my eye on BuckyBalls for a while but not wanting to shell out a lot of cash, I noticed that Zen Magnets were selling the same thing for a cheaper price. As indicated on this video and on their sales page, they tout their magnets as being of better quality, which I can agree with.

    Sadly, the amount of things you can do with bearing sized magnets is limited, but its a cute toy which seems to be raking in the cash on a once unknown market. The phone call from Jake Bronstein has set it so that I will not be purchasing BuckyBalls. It’s not so much as supporting the little guy, as much as it is not supporting gigantic douches trying to monopolize a market rather than improve the quality of their product.

    1. Wow, the Zen Magnet people seem to be total assholes as well!

      Birdseed, you’re right! Standing up for oneself is such an asshole move comparable to attacking others with bogus legal threats because of penis envy.

      How dare them stand up for themselves.

      [cow rolls eyes]

  3. I was totally on board with this guy until he went dumb at the end. Maybe somebody could just stop after he finishes with the hard facts and data and cut to the slowed down Pizza Song.

    1. Well, you could just ignore everything after the hard facts. If his facts and data were convincing, his facts and data ought to be able to stand on their own.

      Hmm, maybe I just have a different opinion because I didn’t find the guy so dumb at the end. Oh well.

  4. I could see why BuckyBalls would possibly, vaguely, have a complaint about Zen selling BuckyBalls’ product in order to make a profit — misappropriation, there, of the BuckyBalls trademark, perhaps. Just remotely.

    I see that BuckyBalls’ CEO’s response to that isn’t a legitimate recourse, but rather vexatious threat of litigation to obtain intellectual property from a competitor (quality test results), fraudulent strategic legal action against public participation (DMCA takedown), and being a douchebag with a bandanna and /b/-baiting with an annoyed cat.

    (disclaimer, IANAL, IANYL, ATINLA)

    I lurve me some magnets, I do. Zen has my business for the holiday season.

    1. “could see why BuckyBalls would possibly, vaguely, have a complaint about Zen selling BuckyBalls’ product in order to make a profit — misappropriation, there, of the BuckyBalls trademark, perhaps.”

      Ridiculous. If I build and sell computers for profit using Intel processors, Kingston memory, and so forth, am I violating their trademarks by listing these components in the advertisements?

  5. i love this guy. he has the right to respond as such, considering the douchebag approach of Bronstein. and he’s funny. and understated. so stfu haterzzzz

  6. A valid response?

    sure. it was concise, it demonstrated the point in an easily undatandable way. It wasn’t, despite it’s claim to show how science is done, very scientific, but convincing enough for me and would probably be enough for a judge if repeated by a disinterested third party.

    A classy response?

    No, it was about as mature as the competitor’s phone call and condescending as hell.

    Only a little better than Steve Jobs’ “See how other expensive phones have the same problem as ours.”

    That said, I’d rather buy from Zen, regardless of the personality of their head men.

    1. While the zen magnets guy may have a point about the quality of his product, he went about it in the most obnoxious way possible. Also, nothing he did there was science in any way, shape or form. The Buckyballs guy was actually more scientific, in that he asked for third party testing, which should ideally be double blind. Do you think the zen magnets guy was really measuring both products in the same way? Additionally, just comparing two standard deviations is not scientific. it doesn’t measure if the difference in the variance of the ball shapes was significant. A one-way ANOVA or even a t-test would have been more appropriate. The buckyballs guy went about it the right way – the zen magnet guy just responded with a commercial.

      I have no stake in which of these guys is legally right – I don’t see myself buying magnetic balls any time soon. But I don’t like it when people misuse what science actually is in order to sell a product, or heck, even to try to prove themselves right.

  7. And NeoCube gets no love? Not even in the comments? Mark wrote about them in 2008. AFAIK, NeoCube has been around longer than both of them. Yay Zen, and maybe Zen even kicks NeoCube ass, but I think NeoCube came first.

    Any comparisons as far as quality between the two? I love my NeoCube, but I loved it so much it started flaking and turning my thumbs gray.

  8. This is really kind of sad. Two startup geeks have a cat fight, and in the end they both end up looking pretty ridiculous. I found Zen’s response a bit childish. That said, Zen proved their claims, but certainly could have done so in a much classier fashion. Also, despite the ridiculous bandanna photos being amusing, we have no indication of their context. Maybe it was boy band dress up day or something, but even that does not really excuse my main qualms with this: since when is it ok to ridicule someone based on their appearance? How is that not equivalent to saying four eyes or fatty or any other similar term? The CEO is pretty obviously an asshole who watched Glenngary Glenross one to many times and thinks he’s a business genius because he can finally afford a hooker without taking out a loan, and certainly uses underhanded, threatening, monopolistic tactics, so let’s just focus on that, shall we, instead of confusing fashion (in however poor taste it may be) with facts.

  9. Attractively positive underdog stands up to over-powerful magnet magnet – both appear to have balls – science reveals pertinent facts, but sadly it all ends up rather repellently negative.

  10. Yeah, what Galoot said — we still play with our NeoCube magnets, before we’d ever see or heard of Zen or Bucky…

  11. I, too, take issue with the claim that this guy “turns dumb” at the end. Rather, seen through the lens of social media, this seems like an appropriate endcap to a video designed to go viral, one which needs to be, by design, as much about product promotion in a social/authentic mode as it is about science.

  12. Both of these companies need to shut the F up. They are both selling a nice little product that is fun to play with but is incredibly dangerous. Similar magnets (but a slightly different shape) were sold on adhesive pads for the relief of mild chronic pain. Some people swore by them. Good luck finding them now. When left laying around children and pets sometimes swallowed them. When the magnets end up in different loops of the intestine they can link up and are so strong that they can cause intestinal perforation. Result, illness, possible death and probable lawsuits.

    So similar magnets aren’t in your local drugstore anymore.

    Both of these companies need to not draw attention to themselves lest they end up the target of similar lawsuits. Again, a fun product, but a very dangerous one. Please keep away from small children and pets.

    1. “incredibly dangerous”

      Er, do. . . d’you think that’s perhaps a little over the top? D’you go to the grocery store and shout, “OH MY GOD! They’re selling TOOTHPICKS! Everybody, toothpicks are a menace to life and limb, do you know how many people choke on them? Kids have punctured their throats! Keep these away from. . . holy CRAP! They sell BLEACH here! And PAPERCLIPS! Oh, God, why paperclips?”

      I’m just saying. Magnets are not, in fact, particularly dangerous. You may as well crusade against heavy vases, power cords, bookshelves, fish, and scissors, all of which I suspect injure far more kids and pets every year. While awareness of potential hazards is useful, I think most folks are at least dimly aware that small inedible objects should generally be kept from kids and pets, and pointing out these objects individually is probably not the most productive way to save lives.

      1. Er, do. . . d’you think that’s perhaps a little over the top?

        Maybe you’re right. But for anyone with young children it’s a danger they need to be aware of. They are also incredibly dangerous to these companies. It would only take but a couple of successful lawsuits to wipe them out.

    2. So [because of the dangers,] similar magnets aren’t in your local drugstore anymore.

      What a shame. I’d prefer it was because drugstores felt it improper to prey upon chronic pain sufferers by selling such a quack product based on crap science, and not for fears of being sued over unintended ‘side effects.’

      Of course, every time I see my local Walgreen’s selling “detoxifying” foot pads for $20 a pop, I realize how unlikely that would be.…

  13. > Didn’t they both steal the idea from the neocube?

    You used the word “steal”, but I do not think that word means what you think that word means.

    Also, you don’t see Zen sending douche-bag voicemails to Neocube or Buckyballs, which says something right there. Jake Bronstein is a an ass, IMHO, and I hope his company takes a massive, massive hit for his behavior.

    PS: Personally I loved the video- a bit of science with a touch of humor at the end. Bravo!

  14. I’ve owned buckyballs, neocube, and zen magnets.

    Zen magnets were by far the weakest. I purchased them because I saw positive buzz online about them being the best and was very disappointed. The batch I got has trouble holding shapes and is frustrating to build with. After seeing this video I think I’ll send them an email. I didn’t have time to return them as they were a gift, otherwise I would have.

    Neocube was apparently the original but they failed at marketing. Their balls are smaller than the rest so you can’t mix and match. They might be a touch stronger than buckyballs, but it’s very close. Strength to weight ratio likely higher.

    After a year of heavy use my buckyballs are starting to flake chrome time to time, which started happening around the time I washed them. I haven’t played with anyone else’s balls enough to know if this is a problem unique to them.

    Out of these three, if you’re starting a new set I would recommend neocube as they’re priced a bit better if you’re happy/indifferent with the slightly smaller diameter.

  15. All of this is just trend marketing. I doubt any of these guys, including Neocube, invented anything. I’m in the gift business and you see stuff like this all the time. A factory, probably in China, probably started showing the little magnet balls idea at a trade show a few years ago and some smart people saw the potential and gave them clever names and packaging and marked up the cost through the roof.

    Zoomdoggle a $20 million company based on the strength of this one product? Good for them! They came up with the best name and marketed it better than anyone else. But think about it. They push direct sales heavily on their own website at $30 and will give you free shipping or whatever. But they also sell wholesale to stores, which means a store can buy them for $15 if they meet the modest minimum order. (Probably 12 sets or something) Which means Zoomdoggle pays no more than $7.50 and probably a whole lot less.

    Zen and any other company that sells them direct for anywhere near $30 is making similar mark up. THATS how you get rich selling magnets. And more power to them, but all this crap about quality and diameters is noise and minutia being used to claim one little magnetic ball is unique from the others. Somewhere out there there may be an original and “best” quality, but good luck finding it.

    Original, patented ideas should be protected and people who knock them off should be penalized whenever the law allows. I don’t think this is the case here. This is just a free for all where all these guys are trying to sell the same basic product…

    That said, selling the other guys product along with yours on ebay to prove some kind of point seems a little dickish…

  16. Jake Brownstein’s voicemail reveals him to be a petulant, litigious, bullying, mean-spirited douche nozzle. I’m okay with the young Mr. Sulu needling him back. I think the target demographic probably appreciates this kind of response. Also the pics of Brownstein are hilarious in this context. I pray Zen gets Woot-ed again, I’m in for two.

  17. If he has an army of lawyers, they’re either not very good, or he didn’t consult them before leaving that voicemail.

  18. Worth noting that several times the Zen guy mentions tolerances of “one-tenth of a millimeter” while .01 (one-hundredth) of a millimeter appears on-swcreen.

  19. The chemist in my already disliked them for misappropriating the term ‘buckyballs’.

    Spherical neodymium magnets have nothing to do with C60! Or Buckminister Fuller for that matter.

    OTOH, I read on Slashdot that their sales apparently shot up when Google marked the anniversary of the discovery of C60, so apparently their strategy works. Seeing what an a-hole their CEO is, I guess it’s no surprise they’d use such a cynical ploy.

  20. Chances are both of them are mere traders. These magnets are chinese made. They just slapped some packaging on them. Buckyballs aren’t even the first on the scene.

    1. Exactly. I bought some “rare earth magnets” on eBay a few years ago for a project. There’s no need to get these very hyped and branded magnets from anyone.

      But man, both of these guys come off like two sides of a d-bag coin. First, the Buckyballs guy is indeed a bully. But the Zen guy is past belief; his whining at the end the 3D glasses on at the beginning. It’s like watching two sales-dinks fight it out. Which is basically what they are: Two folks who are fighting in a market whose existence is tenuous at best.

      I’d like to know when neo-entrepreneurs will just grow up and stop pushing Web 1.0 (and 2.0?) tropes. Just stick to the facts and you win the case.

    1. it’s a 4chan troll.

      Both assholes, but Zen ball’s guy is clearly the bigger asshole of the two. He not only hit below the belt first but continues to do so through this viral video exposing the embarassing phone message and pictures. Buckyball’s guy just made a laughable threat in response to Zen ball’s guy’s actions.

  21. The more I think about it, the more the Zenmagnet guy really bugs me. It’s one thing to hype and promote your product and say that it’s the best, it’s another to call out the competition and say how bad it sucks and going to the extreme length of buying your competitors product and offering it for sale on ebay. Total below the belt dick move by Zenmagnet guy. That’s what provoked the threat of a lawsuit.

    Zen loves to dis bucky’s marketing, but that is what created demand in the first place. It’s easy to call bucky the big mean company with an “army of sales people” (independent commissioned reps that are standard in the industry- lol) but bucky was incorporated in April of 2009, so they went from zero to modest success in a very short time. Getting your product in all those major catalogs is not easy. Takes hard work, investment in trade shows and employees and all that.

    Zen is capitalizing on all that marketing he so flippantly dismisses by offering a similar product, often at discounted prices on Ebay. He’s most likely operating out of his home with little to no overhead which means he can cut prices whenever he wants and make tremendous margin when he sells at full price. All fair, until he goes after bucky by name and offers their product for sale. Bucky guy had a right to be pissed off. I’ve seen owners of companies get in fights on trade show floors for far, far less…

    1. He has the right to be pissed. He doesn’t have the right to issue a DMCA takedown on the video or threaten a lawsuit.

      1. He has the right to threaten a lawsuit. If its frivolous, he suffers the consequences.

        The bigger point is who is the instigator. They both may be jerks, but Zen seems to have fired the first shot. It’s hard for me to get behind him as the innocent little underdog when he kind of hit below the belt dissing the competition by name in his Zen Magnet Challenge on ebay. I’m in sales, it’s something you don’t do…

        Not only do they buy buckyballs and offer them for sale (at a ridiculous price- presumably to dissuade anyone from actually taking him up on it), but in the challenge he almost implies that buckyballs may have bribed Rolling Stone and Esquire for their editorial coverage. That’s a pretty serious charge to make in public.

        Then he says “Buckyball Is proud of their orange two part happy-meal-esque plastic case.” Not actionable, but a pretty low blow… If it was not a direct response to a previous slight, then it shows serious business integrity issues on the part of zenmagnets. He keeps bringing up the Pepsi challenge, but in the Pepsi challenge they just say people preferred Pepsi to coke. They don’t say, coke sucks and it comes in a crappy can…

  22. And the Fuller estate gets how much in royalties for the use of Buckminster’s nickname? Maybe the magnet guys should get a call from them.

  23. Wow, I wish both could have just talked it out instead of coming across as very immature. Zen’s “science” seems sound, but still… I agree with @ww85 here… crazy!

  24. Underdog = ankle biter?
    I think not.
    Two annoying Dudes, I liked magnets better before.

    sounded like Zen maggots

  25. I bought a zen mega 1728 pack and love them. One of our student workers added about 300 buckyballs to the mix and now it’s obviously more difficult to create crazy shapes.

    How could I separate out the crappy buckyballs?

  26. Are these quality tests supposed to be relevant?
    Did anyone ever think “gee, these ball would be so much better if the size tolerance was tighter, and the coating was more even when seen under a microscope”
    The only problem I have with my buckyballs is that the plating gets damaged and flakes away. Are Zen balls better in that respect?

  27. “It’s about the classiest response I can imagine to a legal threat.”

    Oh yes, that video has class written all over it.

    Meanwhile, IANAL but if I were, I’d strongly advise the Zen guy NOT to file a DMCA counterclaim. I’d suggest he talks to a real lawyer to find out how weak his counterclaim is and just how much he’d stand to lose.

    Lastly, @travtastic, are you also happy with a quality control sample size of 1?

    1. #58: They’re working with an IP attorney referred to them through the EFF.

      They really don’t even have to counterclaim at this point since the word is out and the video has been mirrored by so many others.

  28. @Anon58 Nice Try Buckyballs >_< Somehow, I have a feeling if buckyball was a bigger company like apple, revealing a mean voicemail from sjobs would not be "below the belt." Think about that one for a second. Sure is a lot of negativity when the zen guy made no return threats in his response. And simply asked not to be attacked, albiet in a facetious manner. No, the video wasn't "super professional" on the maturity scale, but clearly it was meant to be entertaining to some degree. And control sample of 1? Did you mean 216? Generally >30 is statistically relevant.
    About the DMCA counterclaim, do you understand what the DMCA is for? It’s not like he copied clips from a blockbuster video. What exactly did Zen copy from Jake, and what does Jake have copyright of? The low res pics of jake that come up when you search “Jake Bronstein”? The voicemail he put in somebody else’s inbox? The 2 second screenshot of getbuckyballs.com? All of these are either not copy-rightable, or fall under fair use. It’s you, Anon58, that needs law education. Not zen guy.
    Lastly, I thought the video was damn classy compared to what buckyball has been doing.

  29. Zen Magnets will only get in trouble if the claim their product is better than BuckyBalls. Even if it really is better, Zen Magnets will give BuckyBalls a legal grievance based on the ‘Better’ claim. If Zen Magnets instead says their product is the ‘Best’, then BuckyBalls has no suit, as everyone has the right to say with hyperbole that their product is the ‘Best’, even when it clearly is not, like BuckyBalls.

  30. Hey Anon#59, I’m Anon#58. I’m not Buckyballs though, and fwiw my impression is that both parties in this case are douchebags.

    I didn’t make any comment one way or the other about anything here being ‘below the belt’. I said (via sarcastic implication) that the video was the opposite of classy, and I stand by that opinion.

    Re sample number: taking the video at face value, which I’m perfectly happy to do, he’s testing the balls from a single pack of Buckyballs. He’s using that single pack to represent all the Buckyballs on the market. That isn’t any kind of scientific evidence; it’s anecdote.

    Re the DMCA counterclaim: I don’t know who holds the copyright to the low res pics available on the interwebs, but I doubt that they’ve been used with permission. However, unless Jake himself owns their copyright, that’s probably not an issue. More important is the voice message, which was left in reasonable expectation of privacy, and for which you could make a case that Jake owns the copyright. And here it is being used without permission in a video which has caused actual commercial and reputational damage to Jake. See this thread for evidence of same.

    Mr Zen could argue fair use, although personally I don’t think that works here. Of course, I could be wrong and/or Mr Zen might win anyway, but if he files a counterclaim, he’d be exposing himself to some serious liability. Conversely, if he won… Youtube would reinstate his video.

  31. @ww85, you’ve got it right; Neocube was also a latecomer. They can’t patent; it was already in public domain, and their invention was to form the existing toy into a cube. These were actually invented in the late 1990s by Dan and Dan at Forcefield Inc., http://wondermagnet.com, who comissioned the fabbing of the first sphere supermagnet (1/4″ diameter nickle plated.)

    Spherical supermagnets have no purpose …but while doing bulk-purchases for Weird Science Salon I saw what a great toy they become when bought in large quantity. At weekend outdoor markets I was selling the 1/4″ balls in groups of 60 so you could form a pseudo-fullerene sphere.

    Here’s a 2006 pre-Neocube video: http://youtu.be/ewx9tEJJlWk

    Here’s some old dates for my kids’ science projects site: http://bit.ly/aPDrY6

  32. @Anon60 Don’t see the term “better” in their ebay listing. He simply puts the two side by side, and does objective comparisons. He leaves the conclusion to you.
    @Anon61 “Commercial and reputation damage to jake.” Yea, so much sympathy for his threats being revealed on the internet. I guess Clinton should have sued somebody to fix that whole BJ in the white house thing. Jake has nobody to blame except himself.
    Odd how negative discussions can get without up and down-votes like reddit. Makes it a lot harder to call BS on the kind of stuff Anon61 is saying.

    1. @Anon#64 It’s not a question of sympathy. As I’ve said before, from where I’m sitting, both of these guys look like complete assholes. What I’m saying is, if you’re going to contest the DMCA takedown with a fair use argument, it doesn’t help if you patently have a commercial interest and if you’ve [at least appeared to have] inflicted actual financial damage on the party whose copyright you’ve allegedly infringed.

      It’s by no means an open and shut case, but the Zen guy would have to be crazy to risk going to court over this just to get Youtube to reinstate some stupid video.

      Which part of what I’m saying here appears to be ‘bullshit’ to you?

      1. He doesn’t have to take him to court over the takedown; he can make a counterclaim under penalty of perjury, at which point Bronstein would have to sue him if he wanted it taken down. This would generate far more negative publicity for Buckyballs than could ever be worth it.


        >The issue, I think, is whether it’s fair – under copyright’s fair use doctrine at 17 USC 107 – for the Zen Magnet folks to publish Broinstien’s copyrighted voice mail message in their audiovisual work. Reasonable people can disagree on that result but, for me, I think it’s clearly fair.

        Keep in mind, this is the opinion of an actual IP attorney.

        At this point, they can leave it- a perfect example of the Streisand effect at work.

        1. @Anon#78, I realize that filing a DMCA counterclaim doesn’t mean going to court and I should have been clearer about that. But what it does mean is that you then become vulnerable to being sued. And yes, if a counterclaim were filed, then it would be Bronstein who would have that decision to make and he would be the one doing the suing. But filing a counterclaim and thereby opening yourself up to that kind of liability is a very big step to take. And in this case, imo, a very unwise one.

          Thanks for the link. That was a very helpful discussion. I see that I disagree with an actual IP attorney on whether or not this is fair use. Fair enough; as I said, I could be wrong (although fwiw I’m sticking to my original opinion, Mr Ballard notwithstanding).

          But in any case, this is the part that I’m talking about: ‘Reasonable people can disagree on that result’. It’s always risky going to court, even with a watertight case. Opening yourself up to being dragged into court for these stakes — having your video reinstated vs the possibility of heavy financial penalties — based on an argument that ‘reasonable people can disagree’ over is sheer folly. And that’s what I’ve been saying all along.

  33. Wow, there’s a lot of hype left and right here. I for one, agree with everything the boingboing editors said, word for word.

  34. Well, it succeeded in piquing my interest in tiny magnetic balls.

    The main lesson learned here is to buy a crapload of the things from one source so everything fits together.

    A more likely scenario: Earlier call:

    “Hey, Zen dude. Sales are slow. Let’s start a balls-measuring contest.”

    Disclaimer: 90% of my magnets are a flat part of refrigerator decor. The average size of my balls is not relevant to this discussion.

  35. Hmmm, ammunition…

    reloaded into a shotgun shell

    instead of regular non-magnetic ball-bearings as slingshot pellets


    1. Re: Shotgun shell.

      Shotgun barrels are ferrous. Doubtful that the magnets would do anything on their way out of the barrel given the force of the gunpowder behind them, but I would be nervous the first few times firing a modified shell loaded with magnetic spheres…

      Be a fun thing for Mythbuster’s to do. It would be really cool if the magnets, while flying through the air, had enough attraction to join up while in flight. Of course, that would send your accuracy all to hell…but it would sure make for a sweet slow-mo vid.

  36. There is no expectation of privacy of a voicemail recording expressing a threat of a legal action against a competitor, nor is there a copyright as to the expression for lack of originality.

    What Zen has here is the basis for an antitrust lawsuit for tripple damages by BuckeyBall’s attempt to surpress competition, not only by baseless threats but by removing a Youtube expression under false claims. I wonder if the Buckeyball’s lawyer leaving the phone call had to take the bar exam more than once.

  37. Great job at standing up for yourself. That buckyballs guys sounds like a real jerk. I don’t know about you guys, but I won’t be buying anything from anything they make…ever! You can’t pull that and get away with it these days. Hello social media and open communication.

    Go with http://zenmagnets.com/ or http://thenanodots.com/. Support companies that actually care about the customer!

    1. @Anon #73- Why should anyone support zenmagnet, the company that provoked the whole thing? It’s like the guy that shoves someone without provocation then cries foul when they hit back…

      1. The guy next to you is selling apples. They aren’t quite ripe but he has a lot of people buying them.

        You have juicy apples, very ripe, they taste better and they’re slightly cheaper.

        So you sell your apples and you say “I have the best apples around”. You get a threatening call from your competitor for stating the truth: Your apples taste better. He wants you to have dozens of people independently tested against his apples within three hours or he’s going to sue.

        Zen Magnets made a claim. Jake Bronstein said “put up or shut up”.

        Zen Magnets obliged with proof.

        Toyota tells us in commercials how their cars are more reliable and better rated than Ford. Toothpastes go on about 8 out of 10 dentists recommend them over the leading brand.

        In a free market, Zen did nothing illegal. Not even “wrong” or “below the belt”. Marketers compare their products on a daily basis.

        1. Sorry- zenmagnets showed no class and was extremely unprofessional. Read the ebay challenge all the way through that started the whole thing. That was some passive-aggressive shit and and now he’s relying on herd mentality by going viral with his response to the perceived slight…

          Again, comparing yourself to the competition is one thing, disparaging them and offering your competitors product for sale at an inflated price is just bizarre. I don’t know (or care for that matter, this is friggin magnets after all…) what the legalities are, but zen showed poor business etiquette in that ebay challenge. He provoked them, straight up, and can’t cry to mommy if they hit back.

          Ford doesn’t say Chevy’s are “Happy-Meal esque”

          Pepsi doesn’t say Coke are just great marketers and we have no idea what Coke paid to get all those people to vouch for them.

          BMW doesn’t say buy a Mercedes from us and if you’ don’t like it we’ll give you a 15% refund…

  38. It would probably ruin your shotgun too. I imagine the magnet pellets would shatter upon explosion, and a good portion would stick to the inside of the barrel…

    Anybody got a shotgun they wanna donate to science?

  39. @ Bill Beatty- Very interesting. I wonder if any of these guys patented the cubes, displays and packaging. That’s something you can patent and in the case of buckyball, would be very worthwhile.

  40. ww85 and this other anon guy don’t know when to stop. Buckyball got pwned fair and square. Do you guys work for buckyball or something? I really couldn’t imagine a classier response to dumb legal threats then what zen did.

    1. Dude please. I posted above, I’m in this stupid gift industry. But I have absolutely no dog in this race. I just don’t like seeing people, or blogs for that matter, piling on one guy for losing his temper after being punched first. If that’s the business world you want to live in, where competitors saying you suck in public is fair and square, then good luck to you and your conscience. If you can show where the buckyballs guys called out zen guys first, before zens ebay challenge, then fine, I’ll reconsider.

      Otherwise, you’re saying shit like that is cool. And it isn’t..

      Is anybody building architectural models from these stupid friggin magnets? Does anyone care if tolerances are off by a fraction of a millimeter? If zen’s product is better and cheaper then he has a lot going for him, he doesn’t have to be a dick about it.. Just say you’re tests prove you’re better than the leading brand and call it a day.

  41. Serious nerd-on-nerd violence. I just ordered a mini set of Zen Magnets. The video convinced me that they’re the better version of something I didn’t know existed up until just now.

  42. @Cowicide and 4tehlul:

    Yes, you guys are right of course. I’m not persisting with this to clear up any misunderstanding about the valid and relevant points I was making about the DMCA process, I’m doing it because I’m a troll. In the paid employ of Buckyballs. In fact wait, I is Jake Bronstein hisself! Yeah, that’s it! That’s why I called myself an asshole and a douchebag. It all makes perfect sense!

  43. I’ve been in heated discussions about the merits of different kinds of balls before, but the disputed criteria are usually size and hang, not tolerance or finish.

    1. There’s way too much frothing of the mouth over these balls. You’d think this was a gathering of kinky tea baggers or something.

      Fuck, I’ma mad ’bout these balls.

  44. Why do they sell the trial set for $75.00 dollars?

    The zens are 25.00 and the Buckeyballs are 14.00. That means they make 36.00 extra profit off of the sale of a trial set (the zens are already giving them profit at 25.00).

  45. @ww85 HHAHAAHA Punched first? Is it a punch to compare product A with product B? If everybody had your logic, nuclear wars would be started over subway saying that their sandwhiches have less calories than mcdonalds. Or toyota saying that their cars are more reliable. Or… etc.
    Your attitude seems to be that the “gift industry” falls out of the laws of supply and demand. As if consumers aren’t to know about the competition because the salespeople vow never to speak of them. As if a higher quality product at a lower price should not automatically do better in market.
    Maybe you’re right, maybe it’s not jake’s fault for losing his temper. But it certainly isn’t zens fault for doing the comparison, such is natural for the higher quality product. If anything, it’s jake’s fault a few steps before any of this, for making a mediocre product, and charging a price that is now uncompetitive in light of the competition.

    1. @4tehlul- you don’t seem to get what I’m saying. I have no problem with free market or product comparisons. All I’m saying is that if this is a personality contest, people should be taking a closer look at how zenmagnets conducted themselves first.

      Why aren’t you questioning the absurd price to buy into the challenge? $75 plus shipping for $55 worth of product (and that’s being extremely generous because $55 is suggested list when combining both products) with the chance of only getting $14 back and having to pay to ship it back on top of that, so it’s like you’ll get $10 back.

      Why couldn’t zen compare the products while leaving insults out of it? Comments like;
      “*High Five* to the buckyball company for mad marketing skills. We have no idea what it takes or how much it costs to get recognition from Esquire or Rolling stone. For that matter, we don’t even have a marketing person. Let alone an army of salesmen working on a 15% commission.”
      The “army of salesmen” comment is obviously what led Josh to refer to an army of lawyers. (Which no small company has) And like I said upthread, zen made a not too subtle inference that bucky paid for the recognition from Esq/Rolling Stone. Not very nice…

      Then he goes on-
      “Aside from the magnets themselves, the provided storage solution is often a point of contention. Not just to protect, but also to dress.
      Buckyball Is proud of their orange two part happy-meal-esque plastic case.”

      Again, why go there? Just describe the competitors product without editorial and then describe yours.

      In the business I’m in there are many, many companies who are selling the same type of product as me. We all sell to the same basic customers and though it’s competitive it’s very friendly 99% of the time. The only times it isn’t is when one company knocks off another, (which as I said upstream I don’t think is the case here.) The other time is when one company bad mouths another. There’s two roads in sales. You can take the high road and talk about the virtues of your products or you can take the low road tell your customers that the other guys products suck. If a customer says to you “but what about the other guys product” you can say, “yeah, they make a nice product but we feel ours is better because…” or you can say “Oh, ours is much better than there’s! Theirs breaks all the time, all they do is spend money on marketing and their packaging is cheap and flimsy..”

      Do you see the difference?

  46. i had some bucky ball magnets and the coating after a month or so started to rub off on the sides and was completely worn off on the north and south of all the magnates they now leave you hands stained and metallic smelling after you play with them, i threw them out cuz it was so bad.

    think i might try some zen ones and compare for myself…

  47. @ww85- the absurd price to buy into the challenge is clearly because they Aren’t in the business of selling buckyballs. Isn’t it obvious that the price is set so that you think “Well oh geez this price is high, I’m better off buying the two myself for comparisons, and I can probably get a better refund this way anyways.” um duh
    Insults? I think most of the comparisons are a lot more objective than you think. “happy-meal-esque plastic case” is much more creative way than saying “bright”, “plastic”, “casted”, “flimsy.” Would you have cried less had he used those accurate descriptions to compare? Doubt it.
    Even though you say your industry experiences does not fall out of free market economics, your last big paragraph still sounds like a big free market whinefest. I agree the text in the challenge wasn’t perfectly congenial, the tone was more toung&cheek, and seemed to say “Are you seriously paying that much for such a product”? I think what you meant to say was “Thank you zen, for saving us from buckyballs, with attitude.”
    Of course, you would never do that. Firstly because you think the quality difference on these “stupid friggin magnets” is negligible. We’ll just ignore all of the people who actually play with magnet spheres and agree on the importance of tolerance. Or you can, please, go home.

  48. You accuse me of being a troll and tell me to please go home, when I just posted two comments to the original post on top and then just responded to peoples comments directed at me after that… okay, whatever…

    You say my last paragraph, which for all intents and purposes was about business ethics, “sounds like a big free market whinefest” Well okay then, I’ll put you down for the low-road school.

    I will say this. I don’t think zen was being intentionally vindictive. It was kind of tongue in cheek. I’ll chalk it up more to youth and lack of experience. But when you name your company Zenmagnets.com and put this on the relations section of your website-

    We’re more than just another economic establishment poking for capital. We exist to celebrate the arousing poetry of design, commemorate the natural rhythm of geometric shapes, and rouse the dreams of inspired imaginations… In addition to our magnet engagement, we hope our social conscience will speak for itself. Google, Ford, Chipotle, Blizzard. Respectable companies share many attributes that we like to see in people; honest, creative, dependable and fun.

    If that’s your company manifesto, then paying very close attention to all aspects of business ethics and protocol are even more important. There is nothing wrong with comparing your product to another, but its not very Zen to disparage the other guy…

  49. @baberman “The buckyballs guy went about it the right way.” Are you talking about the chest thumping threats? Or the lesser magnets? Also, it’s been a while since my stats class, but not long enough to know that a one or two way ANOVA, And the t-test both require a null hypothesis (read: given limit for what is or isn’t significant.) Significance of variance in this case is especially pointless because both population samples overlap, and nobody trying to prove that the averages are significantly different, only the spread of the normal. StDev is a perfectly ok method to describe such. So you can stop trying to pull big words out your arse to support your buddy.
    @ww85, sorry, I just can’t find common ground with you.
    So you’re not convincing me that the zen guy is as much as a douche as bucky guy. And I’m not convincing you that the boingboing editors were right on the mark.
    -You say zen guy’s video isn’t classy. I say it couldn’t have been pulled off better.
    -You say zen guy’s original challenge was below the belt. I say the whole thing was a darn prudent business decision.
    -You say bucky guy’s temper tantrum was not his fault. I say if it wasn’t his fault for the tantrum (which it was actually), it certainly wasn’t zens fault for comparison, so it must have been buckys fault for making his product weak to comparsion.
    -You say quality of ‘stupid friggin magnets’ don’t matter.
    I say it matters to the people who think it matters.
    We’ll have to agree to disagree. You clearly have some previously vested interest in this argument, I assume from your ‘experience in the gift industry.’ You must have had some bad experiences in the past with a competitor doing this to you, and now you have battle scars that chain you to this side of the discussion. And I understand why one needn’t pester a soldier in a war to quit the war.

    1. @4tehlul- no vested interest, no previous battle scars, just previous business experience. Competing sales guys are often friends. They go out together, share information and often help each other find new accounts. The odd man out is always the guy that talks bad about his competitors. He drinks alone…

      You’re right, I’m not going to convince you of anything. I’m just amazed that some people didn’t look at the video more critically or question what the phone call was a reaction to…

      btw, this whole thing started more than 10 days ago, anyone know if a lawsuit was ever filed?

      1. btw, this whole thing started more than 10 days ago, anyone know if a lawsuit was ever filed?

        Not sure anyone cares anymore. Maybe they should both keep fighting on YouTube and get some more media attention?

        1. Zen has sued for the false takedown on YouTube. They Tweeted the following on 9/22:

          “Steamrolled with support last weekend! All orders shipped. Restocked this weekend. Buckyball owes for false DMCA take down. Armor+Sight : On”

          I first saw the video while researching BuckyBalls because I was planning on buying a set from Think Geek. They handle Bucky Balls but not Zen Magnets. I noted that Zen Magnets doesn’t simply say his product is better. He demonstrates it’s superior tolerances scientifically. I can appreciate this. The company I work for is ISO 9000:2001 certified, which means we have to provide scientific proof in the form of test results, not just for a few samples of out product, but of every lot we make. We do 5 spectroscope analyses for each and every lot of material we make–two at start of production, two at the midpoint of production and one at the finish of production. If that product undergoes further manufacturing, that is, if we then make something out of the material we just produced, we repeat this testing process at each step in production. That means a finished product has often been tested VIA SPECTROSCOPY 20 or more times! I am impressed by testing, and for a little company, Zen seems to take quality seriously.

          Cory, this is a super example of why the DMCA provisions for takedowns are flawed, as you keep repeating at every opportunity. Thanks for giving the guys at Zen Magnet a little boost via BoingBoing’s popularity. I imagine it boosted sales quite a bit.

          BTW, I bought Zen Magnets and sent Think Geek a little note as to why I didn’t buy from them. Zen Magnets are a little hard to get right now because of the outpouring of support on the internet.

  50. Zen Magnets are waay better than Buckyballs. There should be no doubt as to whether or not Zen Magnets or Buckyballs is a better selection. But who knows, maybe they are both one company, fighting to get publicity? And we’re all just falling for it? Pepsi or Coke? Zen Magnets or Buckyballs? Toyota or Ford? Yin or Yang? Pick one. Or so they want. If I have to.. I guess I’ll pick Zen Magnets.

  51. I was going to buy buckyballs but then I read that the buckyballs CEO left a very rude message on their competitor’s voicemail and then they got the competitor’s youtube video taken down using a flimsy copyright claim. In my judgment, those are the signs of a bad company that illegally bullies the little guy. People who believe in free speech and the free market should not support this company with very questionable ethics.

  52. look mabye yall should quit bombing each other and work together so that yall could make both ur inventions better and more enjoyable for everyone.I understand the buckyballs guy deserved it for threatening you,but telling eachother to screw off doesnt wont make make either of your inventions more enjoyable for the customer

  53. hmmm i just found this now, but it seems like some people got worked up over it! i have Zen Magnets and Cybercube magnets, and i have to say that the Zens Rule! my friend got buckyballs, and we did the same comparisons as the video, and our own. we (+others watching us) came to the conclusion that Zen Magnets are the best!

    *never buy them from amazon, but from zenmagnets.com (you pay less!)

    *Dont EVER say you cant do much with them, because their world is infinite! (look them up at flickr)

  54. zen magnets are beast i bought them and i also have buckyballs and he is right zen magnets are better in quality and price cause it comes with more stuff. u never c buckyballs out of stock but zen are out of stock.

Comments are closed.