Did a Kickstarter puzzle rip off this YouTuber's design? Watch this video and decide for yourself

Originally published at: Did a Kickstarter puzzle rip off this YouTuber's design? Watch this video and decide for yourself | Boing Boing


Video link for the BBS



The early promise of crowdfunding sites has been somewhat ruined by different types of rip-off artists. And, of course, by a society that sees Kickstarter and Indiegogo as replacements for a proper single-payer universal health insurance system.


tickles the mind?

I checked & re-checked, no mind tickle here.


The biggest mistake was when Kickstarter stopped curating projects. They focused on money instead of quality projects. Tons of cheap knock off designs or sketchy electronics seem to flood the website now. They are just treating it as another “Store” to sell through. This kickstarter definitely comes off as sketchy, the more reputable ones are more open about who is behind them.

I’ve been lucky, I’ve backed over 100 projects, and have seen maybe 5-6 outright fail completely?


Unfortunately he freely admits his mistake at 08:30 in the video…

“Here’s the thing, no I didn’t spend the thousands of dollars to file a design patent on this puzzle. As someone who is working on my own and constantly sharing my designs on Youtube, it would be prohibitly expensive and time consuming for me to do that for all of my designs. I did try to make a case to my legal rights to this design, but I honestly don’t want to be involved in legal battles… so I generally don’t patent things like this. I’d rather just trust in the goodness of people and hope that designers would rather create unique products, so that’s on me.

I may be too cynical, but it sounds like CaPiTaLiSm to me. Not every designer or artist creates things simply for the joy of being unique or for the love of the craft. Nowadays it’s mostly about “how can I make money on this”. It’s a shame too, because it’s exactly stuff like this that makes a lot of creators reluctant to share ideas. Ironically, the folks who have the most passion and who are the most giving are typically the ones who get shafted the most. It’s a damn shame.


So, this has always been true, which is why the US has a solution to this problem right in the constitution. It’s patents. This is exactly what they are for because design theft causing downward pressure on innovation has been a problem for all of human history. Sure, getting a patent costs money, but it’s an investment. If you’re not planning to develop your design into a product so you don’t bother patenting it, then you don’t get to complain either. If you are planning to develop it and don’t patent it because that’s “too expensive”, then you’re a lousy business owner, full stop. You’re gonna fail.

Every design is a synthesis of all other designs. Some is obvious cribbing, some less clearly so, but the notion that a design is a sacred thing that belongs to you that nobody else could have ever done is really naïve.

Ideas are easy. Implementations are hard. The other company is doing the hard part of making a product from the idea.


Yes –– but no. This fellow already produces them and sells them. Albiet in an easier way than CNC aluminum. But that is not something he has dropped the ball on.

The lesson is not that he should have gotten a patent. The lesson is its prohibitively expensive to get a patent, and if it was easier more small creators could enjoy the benefit of their work, as could we all.


That’s basically my take as well. There are lots of instances where “he who has the deepest pockets wins”. I mean, I do understand partly where VeronicaConnor comes from. Ideas are easy and implementations are harder, but without the initial idea or design implementation wouldn’t even begin.


Devin Montes named his puzzle Astrolabicon. In 1996, John D. Harris patented his Astrolabacus, which was available online for a short period of time (now, an original is hard to find).

More information: https://www.jaapsch.net/puzzles/astrolab.htm
Youtube video showing the puzzle in action: https://youtu.be/Z-XAzV-20jw?t=67
Patent: https://patents.google.com/patent/US5645278

I know that Devin Montes’ version is different, but clearly there is inspiration here.

Most importantly, isn’t it weird that he picked a name that is extremely close to John D. Harris’ name? Was this a coincidence?

No. Well. In theory…

in the real world patents are :
a) Ridiculously expensive
b) Not checked for prior art, so if someone comes with prior art you loose your patent, but you don’t get you money back. The patent offices of the world basically do nothing for the money you pay them. (except some bureaucratic shenanigans).

As the patent system currently works it’s more akin to so called ‘protection money’. You need deep pockets and lot’s of lawyers for a patent to be useful.

If you are a small maker, it’s basically useless to register a patent, because you don’t have the money and lawyers to defend it.

Speaking more or less from experience (though it was a software patent, and those are even more nebulous and shouldn’t actually exist imo).


On a parallel note, there is a 3D designer who created a 3D printed model of the Stargate from the movie/TV show, with lightup effects and moving parts. He has a very nice website about it, thestargateproject.com Sadly, shortly after he started posting about it, scammers started scraping his website for videos and pix, then making fraudulent sites of their own, claiming to sell either the completed model or the parts to make it yourself (you will never receive anything but unrelated trash from them, if that, as I found out to my distress). If you are interested, Kristian offers a set of the 3D blueprints and a list of components to make your own.


I introduced my Astrolabicon in 2018 citing the Astrolabacus directly as an inspiration. In fact the name is an homage to the Astrolabacus. The difference is it’s easy to visually differentiate the designs, imho. Legally speaking the Astrolabacus and Orb puzzle patents are expired but I would be honored to have an honest conversation with their inventors and respect their positions. If you watch through my video statement I don’t claim ownership over this type of puzzle, I just find the resemblance too similar.


I could have sworn there was a Rubik’s puzzle of similar construction from years ago?

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I remember my “Orb-It” too well to swallow any of this, even after 40 years.

Neither party could have got a patent, this prior art is EXACTLY the same game mechanism and design. And the same colors no less. Try harder with your plagiarisms, troops!
This attempt has “fail” written all over it…



I won’t speak to some of the other similarities between the design, but I do think that this YouTube cover screenshot

is rather misleading. If I understood @makeanything 's video correctly (coming into this knowing nothing) the version on the left is actually a modified version of his original design, made to look more like the Kickstarter version.

It may share intrinsic design similarities, and may have been easy to generate from his original files, but that screenshot makes it look like the design on the left was his original design, and anyone would conclude from looking at that comparison that the Kickstarter version is nothing more than a blatant direct ripoff.

As far as I understand, a better comparison might be this still here from the video:

where his is the “3x” version in the middle, the Kickstarter is a “2x” version on the left, and the ur-original is the giant one on the right.

That may still have all the similarities that @makeanything is talking about in the video (of which the internal magnets seem to be one of the biggest issues), but it’s nowhere near as misleading as the original cover photo.


No, if you look closely, the thumbnail does show the actual Astrolabicon he has for sale, which is based on a hexagon. It’s the same as the white one in your second pic. Only in the video did he show the square-based version he made to look like the Torshn puzzle, presumably to demonstrate how trivial it would have been to modify the design. He did state that while the Torshn is not a direct copy, the design and timing of their “inspiration” seems contrived. Which I agree with.


Which is why I said all the other stuff first in my post. Not sure why you fixated on that last part.

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Tell that to all my small maker friends who have patents. The system works well for them. :woman_shrugging:

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So I assume they’ve had to defend their patents against larger entities? Because I’m looking into a patent on something I designed, and the system seems less than friendly to people who aren’t independently wealthy.