‘Buckyballs’ Toys Suit Swings Forward

The estate for creator of the geodesic dome, Buckminster Fuller, has kept alive its lawsuit against a toy company over use of the inventor’s name for “Buckyballs,” the company’s desk toys.

Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller’s estate sued Maxfield & Oberton Holdings over a set of 216 rare earth magnets arranged in a cube.  The toy allows for arranging them in other shapes.

The company acknowledged in a public statement that that the toy was inspired by and named for the famed inventor and engineer, Buckminster Fuller.

Buckyballs and Buckycubes are he world’s most popular adult desktoy, according to the order issued by Judge Lucy Koh of San Jose.

Koh pointed out that Carbon-60, one of the strongest atomic structures known to man, are sometimes called Fullerenes.  They were named for Fuller because of their similarity to geodesic domes.

Scientists discovered Carbon 60 in 1985 and named it for Fuller because of its resemblance to the geodesic dome.

The suit claims the toy company violated the Lanham Act’s fair use doctrine, invaded Fuller’s privacy under California law and engaged in unfair competition.

Koh rejected Maxfield’s move to dismiss all the claims.

Maxfield argued its toy product is named after a carbon molecule, not after the man Buckminster Fuller.

The only item Koh agreed to dismiss was the claim that Fuller’s name and likeness were appropriated.  That claim could not survive, she said.

Case:  Estate of Buckminster Fuller v. Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, No. 12-cv-2570LHK




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