Gadget maker OXO turns cleverly-designed table on competitor's copycat claim

Quirky, a collective for inventors of clever household gadgets, recently accused OXO of ripping off one of its popular designs, the Broom Groomer, whose toothed dustbin may be used to strip the brush of debris.

It turns out, however, that the design was patented almost a century ago. OXO's detailed description of the design's history—which includes a winking comparison between longtime OXO products and some of Quirky's own recent variations—turned the table with class and style. [OXO and Quirky via Gizmodo]


  1. Wow. That was a great response which comes of as sober, responsible and nuanced. And it makes Quirky look like irresponsible hot heads who don’t disclose the risks of public disclosure of inventions on patentability.

  2. Quirky’s response has me wanting to make sure never to buy anything they’re involved with, doubt that’s what they were aiming for.

    “it must be slow at oxo if they’re basing new designs on 100 year old ideas. We are proud of the steps we have taken and confident that there will be justice for Bill Ward and the inventors of the world.”

    I don’t even know how this response makes sense compared to the points OXO has made.

    1. “”it must be slow at oxo if they’re basing new designs on 100 year old ideas. We are proud of the steps we have taken and confident that there will be justice for Bill Ward and the inventors of the world.”

      Yeah, that makes no sense, because the Quirky design is based on a 100 year-old idea. I guess Quirky has decided to shovel faster and deeper rather than just admit they made a huge mistake.

    2. This is sticking ones fingers in the ears, yelling LALALALALALALAALA CAN’T HEAR YOU, while stomping ones foot like a petulant child.  OH LOOK OVER THERE, SOMETHING SHINY!

      1. Adult version: 

        Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement.


  3. Now Quirky is saying that the prior art doesn’t matter because they nicked it before OXO nicked it, so that somehow gives them dibs.

    It’s really a shame when some small innovative company becomes part of the problem by adopting the tactics that they previously denounced.  The fact that they’re using their employees to impersonate some grass roots movement, replete with t-shirts and hand-made signs just makes it more embarrassing.

    OXO is handling this thing with restraint and class.  Quirky is acting entitled and brat-ish.

  4. If I had a billion dollars, I could be restrained and classy too.  But innovation is no longer available to the little guy, because of this sort of nonsense.  How many people did OXO employ full-time to refute Quirky’s nonsense?

    1. “If I had a billion dollars, I could be restrained and classy too.”

      Two words for you: Donald Trump.

      The one (money) has nothing to do with the other (class).

    2. Really? I think there are plenty of current examples of the little guy innovating. Just because you are little (though OXO claims that they and Quirky employ the same # of people) doesn’t mean you can be ignorant of patent law or pre-existing innovations though.

      As for how many people OXO employed, I’m guessing one or perhaps two – a person familiar with product design and/or a person familiar with patent law. She/he/they probably weren’t hired just to school Quirky, and probably wrote this response on top of their other work.

      1. Well, assuming OXO is a reasonably responsible company, they probably already had that information on file – they either:

        – had an idea for a design, did a due diligence patent search to make sure they wouldn’t be violating anything, found the expired patent, and knew it would be fine, or

        – started by searching expired patents for neglected product designs, found this one, and knew it would be fine.

        So, all it really would have taken at the time would be a few hours to compile the information they already had to make a compelling argument.  The fact that Quirky was apparently caught off guard suggests they are not doing their due diligence before introducing product designs.

    3. OXO has a billion dollars?   I’m just going by what OXO posted in their response on their website, but it doesn’t sound like they have a billion there.

      “We were surprised that Quirky didn’t first address their issue with us before taking it public. Our companies are two blocks apart. We have about the same number of employees. We know the people that work there and they know us. Our leaders have spoken. Isn’t it a little strange that they didn’t think to pick up the phone and call first? Wouldn’t that have been the right thing to do?”

  5. It seems like Quirky went out of their way to get Oxo’s attention; then, when Oxo responds, Quirky says “Look! We got a huge company to respond to us! We *must* have a point of some sort!” That strikes me as a bit petulant.

    1.  Not to mention: “We have about the same number of employees.”

      Quirky is falsely pretending to be the little guy, the david to their goliath, when this simply is not the case.  Very dishonest.

  6. It seems to me that anyone who has ever used a dustpan before has probably conceived of this design in their heads.  It’s surprising that more dustpans don’t have teeth, but it’s also surprising that anyone would make the claim that by producing it, they’ve ‘invented’ it.  I guess the -art- is actually acting on ideas such as this, but jeez, they sure are trying to give themselves a medal, aren’t they?

  7.  I’ve used an upright dustpan with lint puppy teeth in the early nineties. 
    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat its inventions.  

  8. I invented that dust pan over 20 years ago for a third-grade invention contest, I even made a prototype that my Mom still uses to this day. Funny to see a company quibbling over an invention that wasn’t even novel enough to win a contest at an elementary school.

  9. At Quirky, we believe in one thing and one thing that’s very special, which is human protection.
    — Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman

    Bath salts!  Grandma!  Apple pie!  Protect your family from killer bees!

    1. Murder pills!

      I never thought I’d thank Alex Jones for a random nonsensical outburst, but never has his crazy been summed up so succinctly.

    2. So is human protection the one thing, or the one thing that is very special? Is it special because no one else has bothered?

      And are the non-humans really that much of a problem that we need protection?

      Hard to believe this was actually a written statement and not an off the cuff comment after a bit too much ambien.

  10. Definitely OXO comes off as the company that puts its head down and works, with poise and principles. Whether they have a billion dollars or not is meaningless. Just because a company is small doesn’t mean its good.

  11. What really bothers me most about this is that Quirky shows and embarrassing amount of bad knowledge about intellectual property. I had previously got a whiff of the old “give us your idea and we’ll make you rich” scam from them, but watching them loudly proclaim their ignorance and misunderstanding of patent law and IP, I start to think they really are a scam. Who could possibly trust them with their killer idea now?

    1. I <3 Oxo. I bought one of their mini salad spinners and ended up busting the top because I pressed too hard on it. When I contacted the company to see if I could buy (note: BUY) another one, they sent me a brand new spinner, no questions asked. Mind you, I had told them I'd had it for about three months and it was my own fault. Classy, very classy. I know I've drunk the OXO kool-aid and preach its gospel. :D

  12. For months now I’ve been using a broom/dust pan combo that has little ridges on the pan that I assumed were for cleaning the bristles. An O-Cedar product I think, that I got from Target for $10. Granted, the cleaning teeth are much shorter than those of these products, but its still hardly a novel design.
    Never heard of Quirky before and do not have a very good first impression of them.

  13. I applaud OXO for their response – it was mature.  After reading the Quirky response to the response it makes me not want to buy from that website.  The whole premise is that they are supporting the “inventor.”  But……….he died years ago.  LOL

  14. Rip off or not, I hope our money will go to the companies that produce non-disposable product produced without slave wages and toxic materials.

  15. I didn’t see this hilarious attempt to save face linked yet. With such gems as:

    Therefore, we believe it’s very important for the market to know who brought the concept of a commercially viable grooming dustpan to market.

    The comments are delicious. My favorite excerpt:

    OXO hammered you so hard your kids kids will be born with inferiority complexes,

    Apply cold water to burned area

    1. “We can’t think of a time in recent history that a group so small has been taken so seriously by a company so big.”

      Wikipedia says OXO has 99 employees worldwide, and Quirky has 50-100.

    2. The best part is “We do not plan on further engaging in a tit for tat open letter writing campaign”. At the bottom of their tit for tat open letter response. 

  16. I have done research for filing patents and I can tell you that it is often heartbreaking to discover that some large corporation holds a patent that covers something you thought you’d pulled straight of your own creative genius, especially when that same company is doing jack shit to commercialize the idea.   

    If Quirky isn’t willing to do basic prior art research prior to creating a product, it’s not surprising that they would mobilize a mob in the same cavalier manner.

    1. Part of the point of owning patents is in some cases to block competitors from bringing products to market. 

  17. What is super peculiar about Quirky making a fuss about all of this is that a lot of it was covered 2 years ago during the Broom Grooms ideation on Quirky’s own website. Not only was the original patent from 1919 pointed out, but a number of links and images to already existing products that do the same thing were shared by the community. The best part is that a link to an OXO product was shared as a good idea for the foot hold aspect of the Broom Grooms design.

    see here:

    Also, one of the first comments is from Bill Ward, the designer himself who states: “Hey everyone, This morning Matthew pointed out that he saw a product similar to my “Broom Groomer” idea (link no longer works) Thought it only fair to advise the community so you don’t waste a vote on an idea that has an IP issue. Bummer!”

    I have to admit that I’ve never heard about Quirky until this debacle, though I have seen some of their products at Target. Now I know not buy them. Fail.

    1. I feel the exact same way. The first time I hear of Quirky is this mess and the only things I’ve heard online about OXO is how well they take care of their customers.

      Attempting to pass themselves off as a little guy makes it even more offensive. They can’t even be honest about counting.

  18. I side slightly more with Quirky. They have opened up the door to amateur inventors and streamlined the process.  I don’t know much about design patents and what not but I would think the Quirky design of using silicone is a design patent and Oxo just copied it.  Although the invention has already existed it seemed it did not exist on the market for some time and waiting to be “re-invented” and Quirky certainly made it popular again. I think Quirky should just copy the ergonomic Oxo grips because that seems to be the same level of copy cat tactics.

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