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 Post subject: The story of RevolvIQa
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:19 pm 
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Location: Yaroslavl, Russia and Maryland, USA
All images below are clickable.

All of this started when on July 28, 2013 I was browsing the page with puzzles that were accepted into the IPP33 Puzzle Design Competition. Among the puzzles on the list I discovered the puzzle RevolvIQa that was vaguely familiar. RevolvIQa is no longer shown among puzzles accepted into the IPP33 Puzzle Design Competition. Below is the picture of it that I saved when it was there.

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RevolvIQa.jpg
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And indeed it was very much identical to the puzzle that I found in one of the books on puzzles published in the USSR. I need to say that only few books on mechanical puzzles exist that were published in the USSR as most information about puzzles was disseminated through articles in various magazines. This puzzle was pictured and discussed in the book "Mathematical puzzles" by V.Dubrovsky and A.Kalinin, published in the USSR in 1990. In the book the puzzle is called "Cauliflower". Here are pages from the book about this puzzle.

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Mathematical Puzzles - p69.jpg
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Mathematical Puzzles - p97-98.jpg
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Also, I have a certain hobby, and that is studying patents for mechanical designs. It's an old hobby that started in mid-eighties and before the Internet. Anyhow I did recall that there was a patent for this exact puzzle, and after a quick search I found it pretty easily knowing the inventor's name from the above mentioned book. The puzzle was invented in the Soviet Union by Pavel Mantashyan, and there's the patent for it registered on Feb 23, 1985: SU1140809 - Game with Balls. In fact, as discussed in the book, Pavel Mantashyan designed several puzzles based on the same idea, and even created pocket versions for some of them. All of his designs were patented. These are two more USSR patents and three Russian Federation patents. SU1212444 - Game with Balls registered on Feb 26, 1986, SU1202603 - Game with Balls registered on Jan 7, 1986, RU2015721 - Game "12" registered on July 15, 1994, RU2014867 - Game with Balls registered on June 30, 1994, and RU2050897 - Game with Balls registered on December 27, 1994.

Here is the patent that is most relevant to RevolvIQa: patent SU1140809 - Game with Balls registered on Feb 23, 1985.

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SU1140809A1.jpg
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I am sure that you can see what I saw - a very close resemblance, if not identity to the original puzzle, pictured in the book and in the patent SU1140809 - Game with Balls.

A forum member encouraged me to report this finding to Oscar van Deventer who was on the jury of the IPP33 Puzzle Design Competition. I did that on July 30, 2013 sharing my concern that the puzzle might be a copycat. Soon I received Oscar's response that he would pass the information to members of the jury. On the same day I published my findings on Russian twisty puzzles forum.

I waited until after the IPP33 ended when on August 5, 2013 I asked Oscar what was the outcome, and the response was that RevolvIQa was removed from the competition. I also found out the name of the inventor. With that additional bit of information, I updated the topic on the Russian forum. I also decided to search for patents in the name of the inventor. To my surprise I found two: Hungarian patent HU1100278 registered on Dec 28, 2012, and European patent EP2529802 registered on Dec 5, 2012. I also realized that the inventor has no other patents in his name.

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EP2529802A1.jpg
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That was a big surprise as the puzzle was nearly identical to the one described and pictured in the old USSR patent SU1140809 - Game with Balls. The USSR invention was in the playing field constructed a certain way where the balls are arranged in such a way that they are all at the same distance from each other, and in the rotating device that used one of the balls as the rotation axis. That was exactly what was claimed now in the European patent in the name of the Hungarian author (I can't read Hungarian and can't tell anything about the Hungarian patent).

In the meantime comments on the Russian forum made me realize that I didn't do the simplest thing I should have done from the start: search Google for the puzzle's name. I did that only on August 7, 2013, and I quickly discovered the web site revolviqa.com, the youtube account REVOLVIQA with three videos, and a very active Facebook page Revolviqa - Puzzle & board games by Colorica Kft with lots of events and links. I discovered that the puzzle is being actively marketed since the beginning of 2013, and actively sold in Hungary. Articles in several Hungarian magazines, regular events and presentations in Budapest, etc, including participation in one of the biggest Toy Fairs in Nuremberg in 2013.

At the same time I found information about the old USSR puzzle in another book. This time it was a book on puzzles compiled, expanded and written by Vladimir and Elena Zhukov. This book was never officially published, and was essentially a Samizdat, sold or exchanged among collectors. This book had extra information about the puzzle along with pictures that looked like photos of real puzzles. Here are the pages from this book:

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Book_Zhukov_1.jpg
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Book_Zhukov_2.jpg
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At that time I had exchanged a few messages with kastellorizo on a different matter, and sent him a photo of these new pages, along with the link to the puzzle's web site revolviqa.com. That was when I discovered, on August 7, 2013, that all information from the web site disappeared. Next I discovered that the videos was no longer on YouTube as well (they were all made private which I could see as I bookmarked direct links to the videos), and the Facebook page was not longer there. Basically all easily accessible public information on RevolvIQa disappeared all at once on August 7, 2013, right as I was writing a message to Pantazis. Accidentally, this was around the time that the IPP33 ended and most participants returned home from Japan.

Frankly, even with all the evidence from books and scaring resemblance of the Hungarian puzzle to the USSR puzzle, I still had a shadow of doubt that this puzzle might have been invented independently. I have to tell you the truth though, when all information about the puzzle disappeared from internet, that fact made me think that something was fishy indeed.

Using information from the book and internet search, a member of the Russian forum found the Russian inventor's email, contacted him, and even received a response. Being a patent specialist for nearly 40 years in the USSR and then in Russia, with 52 patents in various fields under his belt, Pavel Mantashyan was genuinely surprised that the patent was issued in Europe at all as prior art clearly existed. I contacted Pavel myself, and soon I learned that the puzzle was actually mass-produced in USSR for two years at the end of eighties. He sent me photos of the puzzle that he made for me.

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Game with Balls - 1.jpg
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Game with Balls - 2.jpg
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Game with Balls - 3.jpg
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Game with Balls - 4.jpg
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Game with Balls - 5.jpg
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He also sent me photos of few other puzzles that you could easily match to the USSR (SU) and Russian (RU) patents mentioned earlier. One of these puzzles was on the verge of being produced when the USSR collapsed, along with the economy.

Attachment:
Game with Balls - Other.jpg
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On August 18, 2013 the web site revolviqa.com started working again. Also, one video of the three was restored on youtube. The Facebook page Revolviqa - Puzzle & board games by Colorica Kft was restored two days later, on August 20, 2013.

Then a member of the Russian forum found a US patent application US20130119607 for RevolvIQa. Obviously it was published just recently.

So, what's the story about and why I took the effort of researching and writing all of this?

Personally, I still doubt that RevolvIQa was invented independently. I do realize that I may be wrong, and I am pretty sure there were cases that would show me that strange things do happen. But seeing how really identical are the old USSR puzzle and RevolvIQa, from the playing field design to the design of the rotating handle, to the core idea of using one of the balls as the center of rotation - all of that makes me think that something is not right here. I can never be sure of that though.

In any case that's not the point here.

I like this puzzle, and I liked it from the time in the 1990 when I first read about it in a book. I'm happy that the puzzle is being produced now. The original patent has long expired anyway and anyone can produce it now. Or so it seems.

What I don't like is that this puzzle is being actively patented. First in Hungary, then in Europe, now in the US... Where else? Patents for this puzzle should not be issued at all as prior art clearly exists. I don't like that the Hungarian author claims that this was his original invention. It might have been an independent invention, but I don't recall anyone who reinvented something telling everyone publicly that it was his invention. I don't like that now the Hungarian author has patent law protection for this puzzle prohibiting anyone else produce and sell it in Europe, and soon in the USA.

My belief is that these patents for RevolvIQa puzzle should be disputed and annulled. Litigation doesn't make sense, as the original patent has long expired, and there is no real financial loss. Our community is large and wide, and if there are people who can really help I would greatly appreciate that. I've read somewhere that in Europe you have 9 months from the issue of a patent to make any claims against the patent before the Patent Bureau, but I don't know if that's true, and I don't know the procedure anyway. If that's true then it's only two weeks left as the European patent was issued on December 5, 2012. I also heard that in the US the procedure is a little easier when the patent is not issued yet which is the case here, as you can provide the examiner with information on prior art.

Thank you for your attention.

_________________
Aleksey


Last edited by Aleksey on Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:18 am, edited 6 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The story of RevolvIQa
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:29 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:21 pm
Location: Marin, CA
Aleksey, I love this thread! Amazing research. I reminds me of my quest for Mozaika.

Thanks!

_________________
Jason Smith posted here as 'io' through 2012.
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 Post subject: Re: The story of RevolvIQa
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:49 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 12:31 am
Location: Greece, Australia, Thailand, India, Singapore.
Hi Aleksey, it was indeed a very interesting case. As I stated in our messages, I played with
that puzzle back in February (Nuremberg Toy Fair) and at that stage I was trying to remember
where I had seen it before (of course, it was very enjoyable when I played with it at their booth).
The people there seemed decent, but as you correctly said, it is way too close to the old version.

Regarding stopping the patent, from what I remember, this could actually be done anywhere, anytime,
as long as there is valid evidence of prior art (which in this case is crystal clear).

Right now, I am away from any patent lawyers, but I could try to approach some in the next days.
Hope this issue gets resolved. It would be fair enough if those people mass-produce it, but only
as public domain.

And Aleksey, thank you with all this unbelievable wealth of information!!!

:)


Pantazis

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Educational R&D, Gravity, 4D Symmetry, Puzzle Ninja, Matrix Mech, Alien Technology.


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 Post subject: Re: The story of RevolvIQa
PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:48 am 
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Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:38 pm
Location: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
To me it seems indeed like someone who found an old toy and re-launched it.

(like you find an old game in an ancient book with a ball and a basket on the ground. And relaunch this as basketball (and claim the competition rights). Hey, but that already exists :wink: )

Old wine in new bottles.
Can be a very good business strategy, but protecting such by patents is unfair. You should do it by new trademarks then ("Ball-in-the-basket games" :lol: )


Thanks for the decent study!
And I hope Pantazis can shed some light with some lawyer about prior art. As far as I know patents still can be cancelled.
Especially when prior art has been published (and in this case even produced).

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 Post subject: Re: The story of RevolvIQa
PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 3:16 am 
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Wonderful and thorough research Aleksey! Thanks for all the great pictures.

Dave

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 Post subject: Re: The story of RevolvIQa
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 12:29 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 14, 2006 5:44 pm
Location: SF Bay Area
I'm the competition director, and can add a little bit more to this story. After hearing about the Russian patent from Oskar, on July 31 I asked the RevolvIQa designer to respond to the obvious concerns. By the start of IPP I received no response, so I had no choice except to remove the entry from the public presentation.

After IPP, on August 7, I finally received a response. The submitter expressed both surprise and disappointment, and noted that they did the usual patent search for prior art.

That was about the same time that the online marketing materials (web site, YouTube, Facebook) disappeared, which could very well be an honest and prudent reaction, given the discovery of an unexpected conflict.

Now of course I'm guessing, but it's also likely that after some time and legal review, they determined that it was (legally) acceptable to resume sales and marketing.

There were four cases of such similar designs in this year's competition. And if you haven't heard, there were two entries submitted within three hours of each another...with the exact same name: Helical Burr. Coincidences to happen!

Nick


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 Post subject: Re: The story of RevolvIQa
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:03 am 
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Location: Yaroslavl, Russia and Maryland, USA
Hello Nick,

It was very nice to meet you last year at the IPP at the twistypuzzles dinner. Thank you for your input.

I am very happy that the puzzle is produced now. This is an interesting puzzle. The original patent has expired long time ago, and so I don't see why it would be illegal to produce, market, and sell this puzzle. By anyone.

And that is exactly the point. They are on a quest to claim exclusive rights to this puzzle using the patent law. And that is wrong.

Even if they have reinvented the puzzle, they should not claim that they were the inventors which they do on their web site. It's like I would claim that I was the inventor of skewb as soon as I have reinvented it. The patent for skewb has expired as well.

I would say that they should drop their claims to get exclusive rights to it. Prior art clearly exist. I can accept that they missed the prior art, and patent examiners didn't notice (they never do anyway), but now they are aware of it. Not only was they puzzle patented in the USSR, it was produced for two years as well. If they are sincere and honest, I believe they should cancel and annul the patents, and choose a different form of protection, if any. Pardon me if my wording is somewhat stronger that usual.

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Aleksey


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 Post subject: Re: The story of RevolvIQa
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 10:02 am 
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Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 12:31 am
Location: Greece, Australia, Thailand, India, Singapore.
Ok, as promised I had some frank discussion with my lawyer here in Singapore. I have been
traveling a lot lately, so I am very fuzzy at this stage, plus, if you add some mild seafood poisoning
in Bangkok (don't blame the restaurant, I just ate too much) and being forced to change three(!)
new PCs that failed, you get a better picture...

To the point:

A patent which has been filed, while there has been prior art in the past, may be invalidated anytime.
Any lawyer could do this, and it may be done by simply referring to the office which is issuing the patent
in question (e.g. PCT, local, or provisional). There can be cases where someone may "dribble" his/her way
towards something different, but in this case, the patent similarities are too obvious. I repeat, there
is absolutely no deadline to invalidate a patent if there is prior art.

It is important to add that until someone (anytime) invalidates their patent, they will have some sort
of temporary exclusivity. It is a matter of whether someone wants to pay lawyer fees to stop this,
an action which could only be realistic if (in the marketing sense) that same someone else wants to mass
produce it too. In terms of ethics, common knowledge would do the trick (well, not that well, but oh well...)

Of course, as stated, it is impossible to stop the production and the sales, as it is public domain,
but as Aleksey correctly said, it won't allow non-existent exclusive rights. And as a very long time
has passed since the issue of the original patent, it is a fair game for everyone to use it as they please.

Hope that helps. Now time to prepare that swimming suit and head towards the island, it has been a tough week.

:)


Pantazis

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