As a member of the Mompact consulting team, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year getting to know some amazing mom inventors – Women who saw a challenge in their daily family life, and invented a solution to solve it. These women are regular moms, just like you and I. They spend countless hours researching and planning, just to get their idea off the ground. Many of them spend their entire savings, and even take out loans – all to see that big idea, and that dream, turn into reality. And the rest of us moms benefit from their hard work, as their amazingly helpful problem-solvers hit the market, and we have access to them to solve our own busy mom challenges. Sounds like a great American story, right? It is – until it goes wrong.
What do you think?
You can see the post that I got this photo from on the Mompact Facebook page. The products look like a pretty similar idea, right? The one on the left is the Aqueduck, the product invented by a mom, and sold by Peachy LLC. She has filed for a patent, but didn’t have the process completed yet. The second image is from major brand Prince Lionheart. Now, I’ve always been a huge fan of Prince Lionheart products. I was a fan of theirs on Facebook, entered many of their giveaways, and have been considering purchasing some of their potty products, since it’s almost that time in our home. When I first heard that they had come up with a product that was incredibly similar to the Aqueduck, I thought that it must just be a very unfortunate coincidence. It’s not impossible for two companies to come up with a similar idea totally independently of one another. And earlier today, Prince Lionheart released a statement on their Facebook page stating that this was all a big misunderstanding.
BUT – Then I saw the advertisement image that Prince Lionheart released. The one above.
Take a closer look – Not at the product, but at the child’s hands. Do you see what shocked me so much? They are the SAME set of children’s hands that appear in the Aquaduck ad. Same palm filled with bubbles. Same everything. Under a similar shaped faucet, featuring a similar product. And the logo – The put theirs in a white box, and placed it in the same spot. Hmmmm, it’s getting harder to believe that this was just a coincidence. So I went to the source – as I mentioned, Prince Lionheart had posted a statement about this controversy on their Facebook wall. So, I commented on that thread with a link to the graphic above, and said that while I wanted to believe that they had not copied the mom inventor’s product, I was concerned about the similar image. My comment was promptly deleted, I was removed as a fan, and blocked from commenting on their page again.
Wow. Didn’t see that coming.
Another fan left a comment on their wall, asking why they would delete the photo comparison. Prince Lionheart responded by stating that the issue was due to a graphic designer that they had hired – they had no idea that he had taken an image out of the original Aqueduck advertising, and pasted it into their own ads. I gave it a little thought – Ok, maybe it was a stock photo. It’s possible that when searching for “child washing hands”, two separate designers might come across the same image. The “coincidence” was now getting harder to believe, but still possible.
Except that it wasn’t a stock photo.
It was a photo of the inventor’s son’s friend. At a private photo shoot, for her own advertisements. So – what do YOU think? Here’s what I’ve found today, while looking into this:
- A major brand comes out with a product that is almost identical to one invented by a mom, before she is able to get her patent processed.
- Their statement says that they were not aware of her product, and did not copy the idea from her at all – But they DID copy an image directly out of her own ad, and used it to promote their own version.
- Instead of responding to questions about this issue, they monitored their Facebook wall, removing any comments that were NOT in support of their side. They said that this was to stop the controversy – yet they allowed a long string of extremely negative and condescending comments towards the mom inventor.
Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a screenshot of their wall earlier today – Because it is now not available. I’m guessing that they would not go so far as to delete it, so perhaps it’s just been “un-published” for now, so that no one can see or comment on the issue.
Share Your Opinion
What do you think? What would you do if this was YOUR product? A major brand like Prince Lionheart knows that a mom inventor with a small company doesn’t have the resources to challenge them in court. But perhaps the court of public opinion can make them realize their mistake here. If you’d like more information on this – Rebecca, from Smart Seat Covers wrote a post today from the viewpoint of a mom-inventor. And she brings up a good point – if we let this happen, then what about other small businesses? Rebecca says, “And because of the way that the patent system is structured, she has no legal rights until the patent on her product is issued. Even then, the piece of paper is only as good as the resources that she has to enforce it. If that is the case, where does this leave little companies like hers (and mine) whose products may be knocked off by larger, more established companies under the assumption that there is really nothing that the smaller companies can do?” If corporate America can just swoop in and take an idea from a small, mom-run business, and profit from it – and she doesn’t have the resources to fight it – that is bad news for entrepreneurs everywhere.
Two Sides to Every Story
Even if I give them the benefit of the doubt, and try to believe that the development of their product was totally independent of the Aqueduck, and not based on her design and idea – Their handling of this is completely unacceptable. I deal with negative comments on my own Facebook wall, when people don’t agree with things that I post. When a comment is extremely inappropriate, or is someone just clearly trying to cause trouble, then yes – I will delete them. But when people disagree with me, I discuss it. I always welcome respectful disagreement. I would never simply erase anything that wasn’t supportive of me. And to do so while allowing people to bad mouth the awesome woman who invented the other product being discussed? Prince Lionheart is a family-run business, creating products to help moms and their families – I would never have expected them to do something like this. Not cool, Prince Lionheart. Not cool at all.
— SunandSipCups (@SunandSipCups) March 3, 2012
Want to show some support for this amazing mom inventor? Leave her a comment of encouragement on her Facebook wall – Peachy LLC. Visit her website at Peachyco.com. Or purchase your own Aqueduck Bathroom Faucet Extender from Amazon.com.