Can't Use 'Buckyballs,' Estate of Inventor Tells Toymaker
SAN JOSE (CN) - Buckminster Fuller's estate claims a toy company does not have permission to use the master inventor's name for its popular "Buckyballs" desk toys, a set of magnetic balls that can be arranged into different shapes.
Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller is best known for creating the geodesic dome. He held 28 patents and wrote 28 books on a wide range of subjects.
His estate sued Maxfield & Oberton Holdings in Federal Court over "Buckyballs," sets of 216 rare earth magnets arranged in a cube, which can be rearranged into other shapes.
Maxfield & Oberton claims Buckyballs are the world's most popular desk toy, according to the complaint.
Maxfield & Oberton acknowledged in a press release that the toy was "inspired and named after famous architectural engineer and inventor, R. Buckminster Fuller," the complaint states.
The estate says it allowed Maxfield & Oberton to use Bucky's likeness only once, in 2011, for a commemorative edition of Buckyballs, whose profits were donated to the nonprofit Buckminster Fuller Institute.
The estate says continued sales of Buckyballs will confuse consumers into believing it endorsed the toys, though it did not.
The estate seeks an injunction and damages for unfair competition, invasion of privacy, name appropriation and unfair business practices.
It is represented by Thomas Cohen of Mill Valley.
As for the word Buckyball, according to the complaint: "In 1985, scientists discovered Carbon 60 and, because its shape resembled Bucky's geodesic dome, they named the molecule the Buckminsterfullerene - commonly referred to as Buckyballs."