The little guy is a colloquial term we use to refer to someone who doesn’t have million of dollars worth of backing and an army of lawyers, the people on this list may seem rather different, but they all have one thing in common. Someone with more money and power than them stole their idea and claimed it as their own.
10. The Aqueduck.
The Aqueduck is a faucet extending device invented by a mother who wanted a simple way for her child to be able to reach the tap without having to order a set of phone-books from her local cliché company. The invention was warmly received and did quite well, right up until the inventor noticed that a much bigger company, Prince Lionheart, had released an invention that looked exactly the same.
Now the Aqueduck had yet to receive the patent that the inventor had applied for, so there was very little they could do about the apparent theft of their idea, well, except for prove that it had been stolen. Which they totally did by pointing towards Prince Lionheart’s “invention” and pointing out that the image they were using to advertise it was ripped right from the Aqueduck’s original advertisement.
We should point out the original advertisement for the Aqueduck used an image taken in a private photo shoot, as in, literally the only way Prince Lionheart could have gotten their hands on it was to straight up rip it from Aqueduck’s advertisement, which considering how similar the products were, wouldn’t be that surprising.
9. Peter Roberts’ Wrench.
Peter Roberts was a young man working for Sears when he happened to invent an amazingly revolutionary socket wrench. Roberts initially thought about patenting his device, but he was convinced by a co-worked to instead submit it as an “employee suggestion” to Sears’ head office. A decision that has gone down in workplace history as the worst advice ever given to a co-worker since “photocopying your ass will be hilarious”.
The naive Roberts did exactly that (with the only prototype in existence we might add), effectively handing it to Sears. Upon receiving the wrench Sears very quickly put it through a number of tests that were well received by mechanics and then followed up by ordering almost a million units. Oh, and through all this Roberts wasn’t told a damn thing. In fact, Sears phoned him up just to get the name of his patent lawyer, who they quickly hired to protect their interests. Because being evil means hiring a lot of lawyers.
Sears then proceeded to drag their feet on the dozens of lawsuits and court cases Roberts piled on them, all while they made millions on Roberts’ invention and Roberts’ finances slowly dwindled to nothing. Every time Roberts made any sort of headway on getting something, anything for the invention HE INVENTED, Sears quickly took the case back to court. Dragging it out for almost 20 years.
8. The Anyway Up Cup.
Mandy Haberman is the inventor of the Anyway Up Cup, a cup for toddlers that won’t spill regardless of what a toddler does to it even if that toddler is the Hulk, probably. If you’ve ever been near a child you’ve likely seen some variation on this device and are aware that it’s pretty much required for anyone who wants a child, but doesn’t want orange juice thrown all over their floor.
Mandy came up with the device after seeing a friend’s toddler ruin a white carpet with blackcurrant juice and after a few months of tinkering she had a working prototype, which she promptly decided to show to some baby industry big-wigs. Who, despite all of the interest in her device, told her they saw no value in it. Which is when Mandy decided, screw it, I’ll just sell this thing myself, which she cleverly did by sending boxes containing her product full of juice to retailers.
However, almost as soon as her product hit shelves, an iidenticalproduct sold by Tommy Tippee launched and Mandy knew her product couldn’t compete with Tippee’s money and reach. Mandy also noticed that not only was the device being sold by Tippee exactly the same as hers, but that it had been bought by Tippee from a company who originally decided they didn’t think her device was worth anything.
Thankfully Mandy was able to prove that Tippee ripped off her design and slapped them with a court order to pay her royalties, because of course that happened. It has to at least once on this list, it’d be too depressing otherwise.
7. The Dip & Squeeze packet
The Dip & Squeeze packet is a condiment container released by the sauce giants, Heinz that lets you both dip and squeeze your sauce, effectively ensuring anyone who travels back in time always has a way of making cavemen’s heads explode. However, the design of the packet originally belongs to one, David Wawrzynski who originally pitched the idea to Heinz, who despite initial interest, eventually told David they saw no value in his product. Are you seeing a pattern yet?
Soon after meeting with Heinz and sending them several prototypes of his “little dipper” idea, David’s communications with the company ceased and David’s sauce labels all began to have large middle fingers scrawled on them. Weirdly, despite Heinz straight up telling David his idea for a combined condiment holder and dipping device wasn’t of interest to them. They went right ahead and released an almost identical product a few months later, because sauce money is apparently the exact amount of money you need to be lying assholes.
In case you weren’t following the theme of this article, yes, David is currently suing the crap out of Heinz.
6. Johnny Cupcakes’ shirt design.
Johnny Cupcakes is a clothing line that makes extensive use of cupcakes in its designs, because cupcakes are awesome, there’s no joke, we like cupcakes and would never mock them. Now Urban Outfitters saw some of the companies designs and decided they too wanted to get in on some sweet, sweet cupcake action and asked the company to send them off some designs. Which they did, only for Urban Outfitters to decide, out of nowhere, that they no longer wanted to pay the company to use their designs. Also, the refused to send back the test designs Johnny Cupcakes had sent over, presumably because screw the postal service.
Two years later Urban Outfitters released T-shirts featuring, you guessed it, cupcakes. Now of course you’re thinking “Johnny Cupcakes don’t own the rights to putting cupcakes on their shirts” and you’d be right. However, the company quickly noticed that not only where the shirts oddly similar to one of their designs, they were virtually the exact same design as the same shirts they’d sent to Urban Outfitters two years earlier, the same shirt Urban Outfitters claimed they didn’t want to pay for.
5. Lil Kim’s album cover.
When Lil Kim, a person Wikipedia assures is a singer despite our ears screaming otherwise, announced the cover for her new single, “Dead Gal Walking”, a make-up artist and all round awesome person, Samantha Ravndahl noticed that it looked familiar. Familiar in that her was her own face staring back at her.
Samantha noticed that the cover for the single was essentially a picture she’d taken during her make-up tutorial on how to be a pop-art zombie, a picture that was now sat on the cover of a soon-to-sell-thousands-of-copies single. Of course, like with everyone else on this list, Samantha quickly spread the theft as far as she could, which of course, did absolutely nothing from stopping Lil Kim sharing the image on Instagram without proper attribution.
4. The Pen Type-A.
The Pent Type-A as well as sounding like a rejected Jaeger from Pacific Rim was a neat device that combined a high quality steel pen and ruler into a single device. Along with looking approximately 80% more pimp than a regular pen, the invention also took Kickstarter by storm.
However, the device ran into snag after snag and its release date was pushed back. Backers were pleasantly surprised then when they saw that a combination ruler/pen had just been released under the name “Torr”. When the inventors of the Pen Type-A saw all the comments praising them on the release of their pen, they responded with a rather blunt, “yeah, we didn’t invent that”.
Even more annoyingly, the people releasing the Torr, a massive manufacturing company, were the same company the guys behind the Pen Type-A approached to construct their pen in the first place. In other words, they’d taken the design brought to them, stolen it, put a new name on it and released it before they ever had a chance. They even got Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame to advertise it, which as we all know, is the advertising equivalent of a middle finger.
After some backlash, the few places that agreed to stock the Torr in the first place decided that they didn’t want to do business with thieves and pulled it from their shelves. Which is nice.
3. Jonathan Coulton’s Baby Got Back cover.
If you don’t think Glee is a big business, check out how many albums they’ve released and remember that there’s not a single original song on them, then delete you search history because that’s targeted advertising you do not want.
Jonathan Coulton is a singer and songwriter who has openly allowed the majority of his work to be used for non commercial gain. Glee apparently saw this and figured, “hey, that must include us too” and stole his arrangement for his cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s magnum opus, Baby Got Back.
Though the shows creators originally denied the theft, Coulton quickly pointing out that their version contained the line “Johnny C’s in trouble,” Johnny C being Jonathan Coulton. When faced such overwhelming evidence of theft, Glee responded to Jonathan saying that he should be happy about the exposure their theft had given him. You know, even though he wasn’t credited for his arrangement at all and the only publicity he managed to get was as a result of pointing out their theft.
Coulton’s response was to cover Glee’s cover, of his cover and then donate the proceeds to a charity Glee supposedly supported. Because that’s how a legend responds to someone ripping them off.
Pong is widely recognized as one of the very first video games, you’ll notice that we never said “first video game” because Pong was apparently a rip off off the much more obscure tennis game featured on the Odyssey console.
Though the concept of a tennis game isn’t exactly unique, the president of Atari at the time was privy to a private viewing of the Odyssey system and in particular the tennis game featured on it in 1972. Two years later Pong was released. Now it wouldn’t be hard to write this off as coincidence if it wasn’t for the fact that Magnavox later (successfully) sued Atari for royalties, which is as close to admitting fault you can get without ever actually doing it.
Though both companies are arguably successful in their own right, virtually no one has heard of Magnavox, whereas Atari is now the name synonymous with video game history.
1. Disney, oh Disney.
There’s an old adage about throwing feces at a wall that we think really explains the Disney company. The company has had dozens of lawsuits thrown at it for stealing ideas and as of yet, virtually none have ever stuck.
For example, Disney classic The Lion King is remarkably similar to another story about a lion called “Kimba the White Lion.” The similarities between the two are so close that the voice of Simba himself originally though that the Lion King was a remake of the story for like 6 months during production.
Then you have finding Nemo, which is an almost carbon copy of a French story about Pierrot the Clown Fish. Which along with having a very similar plot, also features a number of similar characters. Of course, when the case went to court, Disney won.
But it’s not just movies, for example, a young artists had one of her favorite and most popular pieces ripped straight from her portfolio, put on some official Disney products and then had to watch as they sold like crazy while her bank balance remained offensively unburdened with Disney’s dream crushing money.