Crowdsourced-invention platform Quirky accused household gadget-maker Oxo of copying one of their products last week, specifically “appropriating a feature from a product called the Broom Groomer, which was submitted to their community in 2009 by an independent inventor and launched in 2010. Their product includes ‘rubber ‘teeth’ on the back of the dustpan [that] … quickly and easily comb out dust bunnies,’” report Oxo executives on their blog.
Oxo then fights back, explaining Quirky’s inventor wasn’t the first to come up with a dustpan with teeth. And neither was Oxo. In a brilliant reveal, Oxo shows that inventor Addison Kellley patented the idea in 1919, and goes on to methodically school Quirky on how patents work, and the idea that very few ideas are original.
Here’s how I’ve been successful in my life so far: I copy. Some of my first classes were in art and design, and the first thing they teach is: there are no original ideas. So start. Start by copying. Imitate the masters, make the same brushstrokes, write in the same meter. We like to believe we are all unique snowflakes, but a chair is a chair is a chair. Art is manufactured out of reverence first. Which is not to say that blatant replications should not be examined in a harsh light, only that the road to innovation is paved from imitation.