Josh Malone aimed at solving an ages-old water balloon problem. He and his children had always enjoyed playing with water balloons. They would spend hours filling up thousands of balloons and Josh kept thinking that there had to be a better way to do this. After years of intermittent experiments, he put a straw in a balloon and sealed it with a small rubber band. It worked! He called it Bunch O Balloons and he filed for a patent. Josh brought it to a toy fair but didn’t receive an offer, so he put it up on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website. It went viral. After just a few days, over $900,000 was raised. Josh later went on the Today Show and threw water balloons at Carson Daily.
Soon after, production was started. Then, a friend called and told Josh that they had seen Bunch O Balloons on a commercial but it was called “Balloon Bonanza.” By then Josh’s patent had been issued, so he sent a cease and desist letter to Telebrands, the company violating the patent. They ignored it so he filed a lawsuit, along with Zuru, the company Bunch O Balloons was licensed to.
Nine months later Josh got a preliminary injunction. It wasn’t over but they had to stop copying Josh’s inventions. However, the next year they came out with another copy called “Battle Balloons.” Josh filed another lawsuit and got another preliminary injunction. The next year the company came out with yet another copy, “Easy Einsteins.”
Josh got another injunction. Meanwhile, the copiers went to the patent office and asked the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to take his patents back, and they did. Without due process, the patent office overturned the federal court decisions and took away Josh’s property.
Quite determined, he headed straight to the patent office and led the first-ever protest in which seven inventors (including Josh) burned their patents on the sidewalk, generating a powerful news story. After that, things started to turn around. Josh won his first lawsuit and the PTAB changed their opinion and gave him back his patents. Telebrands eventually offered a settlement and it was accepted. Sadly, Josh’s success is an outlier. Most inventors don’t have the funds to fight for as long as he was able, which is why he moved to Alexandria with his family, allowing him to lobby for inventors’ rights.