How my killer idea ended up on someone else’s infomercial…again!

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Did you ever come up with a great idea only to shelve it and find out, six-months later, somebody else came out with the same damn thing and made a ton of money?

This is a regular occurrence for me…but yesterday’s discovery really hurt!

I do yoga year-round and I trail-run and mountain-bike in the warmer weather. But I am a total sissy when it comes to cold, so I needed a way to get a cardio-workout inside in the winter. I don’t dig traditional gym-based exercise, but I do enjoy jumping rope (after the first few weeks of panting and wheezing).

Problem is, I live in an apartment and the sound of the rope smacking on my floor at 6am would royally annoy my downstairs neighbor. Plus, at that time of day, I’m still half asleep, which makes coordinating even the basic jumping steps a challenge.

Down but not beaten…

Rather than giving up on the notion of jumping rope, though, I created what I thought was a really cool modified “split” jump-rope, using a $3 jump-rope from Target, two racquet-balls and some box-tape (the balls were there to give it enough mass to replicate the centrifugal force of a full rope…physics dork at heart).

It made no sound and required almost no coordination. It was seriously cool. So cool, I thought it would make a great product for an infomercial.

Here’s a picture of my Easy-Schmeezy Split-Rope invention…



But, around the same time, life began to get insanely-busy, so I shelved the notion of copyrighting my creation or trying to manufacture or license it.

Still, leaving the potential untapped had been nagging at me.

Until, yesterday, at 11:28am, that nagging blossomed into full-blown ACKKKKK! My wife called me and said, “are you in front of a computer?” “Duhhh,” I responded. “Go to,” she said. And, so I went…and screamed (trust me, you don’t wanna know what I screamed).

Here’s a picture of what I found…


There was my invention…

Ready-to-go, infomercial in hand and on the market for $50!


This kind of thing happens to me so often, I’ve been threatening to launch a new company that just gives ideas to people with the time to run with them in exchange for a small licensing-fee.

I guess the lesson here is…

If you’ve got something you believe in, either run with it NOW or get over the illusion that you’re the only one on the planet who could possibly do it justice, figure out how to give someone else the opportunity to run with it and then share in the journey.

So, whaddyathink? This ever happen to you? What would you do?

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15 responses

15 responses to “How my killer idea ended up on someone else’s infomercial…again!”

  1. Boy, can I ever relate to that.

    I forget how many times I have said to my Wife “someone should invent …,” and she would say, “yeah you should do that.”

    Ideas are wonderful things to have percolating in the brain, but unless the idea makes it all the way to the hands, it just leads to frustration and regret.



  2. This happens to me all the time. In fact, it’s happening right now, because I am doing a site like that, too. Only I’m going to give the ideas away and use it as a platform to build a reputation and pay it forward.

  3. Scott Clark says:

    It’s one thing to think something up, quite another to execute. It’s a funnel you’ll find in many business processes.

    Scarcity often means value, and the capitalist system is set up to reward people who go through the hard work and actually put something on the market.

    Nice idea, though.

  4. Hey! That _is_ a great idea!

    But I’m with Michael: what would happen if you just took ten minutes to throw up a photo and a how-to on a blog or website? Make the DIY-ers happy, build your reputation as a creative genius with tons of ideas. Who knows: maybe you’d wind up with some partner who would handle the production of your ideas as you rattled them off: say, one of every ten, since it seems you’re pretty prolific in this area.

    I know you give lots of yourself and your brain fodder already; this would be an excellent and natural extension of that.

  5. I do that all the time. I did it with the “Whatchamacallit” bar, as well as the recursive braking principle. However, since I am not mechanically inclined – I just ignored it.

    I have a whole list of that kind of stuff. After watching idea after idea hit it big, I decided that I was going to be the one to implement one of my ideas.

    I am in the whole ‘business start-up’ process now and what kills me is that I KNOW my idea is a money making machine waiting to happen, I just have to jump through a zillion hoops in the hopes of convincing some staid, silverspoon fed guy that I know what I am talking about. :sigh:

  6. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ John – Preaching to the choir, brother! I think I should just make a recording that says, “Honey, I just came up with the coolest idea” and set it to auto-play every time my wife walks through the door!

    @ Michael – I like the idea of giving it away, too. It’s a good karma move. I think, for me, it’s not so much giving up the potential payday, but the ego involvement in seeing it done the way I’d want it done. Even though, it’s very possible someobody else could do it far better!

    @ Scott – Absolutely. The reward goes to those who put in the often massive effort to bring something from concept to reality. If it was so easy, everybody would do it and the value would be significantly lower.

    @ Communicatrix – Interesting questions about throwing up a photo on a how-to website. I actually had no knowledge of this other product, but what I created was so close to the commercial version, I wonder what kind of intellectual property law wrangling would arise by even sharing how to make my version to a mass market for free. I was a securities lawyer in my past life, but I’m not up to speed on IP law. Hmmm… Anyone have an answer?

    @ Hayden – man, you invented the Whatchamacallit bar…too?! 😉 I hear ya, but like Scott said above, if it was easy to push something all the way through to fruition, there’d be a ton more people doing it and the value just wouldn’t be the same.

    I guess the message is, if you believe, then act!

  7. esther says:

    hey jonathon, maybe you SHOULD consult an IP lawyer. who’s to say you shouldn’t still invent your version? i think you can actually just change just a few features and be safe, IP-wise. i mean, 50 bucks? battery operated? who needs it? it strikes me like a cutsie tech-gizmo you play with and banish to the back of your closet, whereas your version could be the cooler, hipper and more affordable one. and don’t even get me STARTED on the name… jump snap? maybe that flies in maryland but no self-respecting new yorker would be caught dead toting that carrying case. and what about that boring look – can’t you sex it up? better colors, cooler rope, whatever. here’s an idea: how about 25 bucks, no battery and sell it w/a dvd with your coolest sonic dancer/yogis doing the routines in a class and a little booklet w/info on how many calories you burn? give it ball bearings in the socket to give it a whirring sound. hey, i could go on, but i really really really think you and the entire staff at vibe creative (that’s still you, right?) can do much, much better! but first, a chat with an ip-guy….

  8. Dan says:


    Once again you offer a powerful anecdote which illustrates the power of regret, as well as the potential upside of acting on one’s beliefs and ideas. Kudos and thanks.

    Now if I can only work fast enough to get the idea I’ve had going out the door and no longer lingering in my head.

    I’ll be sure to let you know if there’s any success there. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to more of your articles.

  9. Jaime says:

    Jon it may be cold comfort, but I also would cut jump ropes in half and put tennis balls on each side, so that some of the kids at The Training Floor
    could have some success with the rope.
    I meant to get a patent, right after I get one for my heavy bag that hits back. LOL
    PS I also had a pet rock long before someone got rich selling them…True story.

  10. I thought any device like that was called the Enlightenment-O-Meter? If it gets you to should blasphemous stuff at computer screens it’s in the red! 🙂 (Thank you, o silly looking device, for being my teacher…)

    I can totally relate to your story, and considering things like that to me are ways to point out where I still have ego issues (because…what’s the “I” that feels as if something has been stolen, or somebody will get more, gets richer, has more energy, et cetera?) is my way to grow and learn from them. There’s enough to go around.

    Also, thoughs and ideas may be much more non-local and thus not bounded by a brain (and ‘owned’ by a person) than we have believed to be the case. The ideas of Rupert Sheldrake (morphic fields) and findings in quantum mechanics support this notion. Just as some believe we tap energy and love from the universe and pass it on instead of generate it, we may tap ideas, intelligence and creativity from it. So…for the well to identify with what it is just the source of, not the creator, can be somewhat of a problem 😉

    On the other hand, I’m not a total giver-away of my creative energy, so I do channel it in some cases and put a price on it. Making a living can be good fun in this world! (In my case I do so as an identity designer and business consultant)

    It has been researched that *thinking* about working out will also enhance your health and muscles, maybe you can record an audio book that helps people work out in their heads 🙂 It’s totally silent! (SilentWorkout, NoSweat, INC.)

  11. Kris says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    As a writer, I’ve run into the same situation countless times. I come up with what I think is a terrific story idea, I start making notes and doing research and get ready to write the book, and then I stumble on another novel with the same storyline. I’ve written screenplays and put together television pitch packages only to see the same concept turn up in someone else’s movie or television show that year before I’ve even had a chance to send my scripts out to anyone.

    It sometimes makes me wonder if we’re all drawing our ideas from a shared creative source. Or perhaps it’s simply that we’re all exposed to the same trials and tribulations that come with being human. There is, after all, a reason why the myths created by cultures on opposite sides of the planet have the same exact themes.

    But, as Scott pointed out, the ideas keep coming but it’s what you do with them that counts. It’s the people who take action toward making their ideas a reality who reap the rewards. Unfortunately, as you’ve already recognized, one person can only do so much at a time. I come up with ideas faster than I can write books or screenplays about them. At this point, I’ve resorted to keeping a file named Story Ideas on my computer where I put brief notes about any ideas that hit me while I’m in the middle of another writing project. The file gets longer and longer every day, though I occasionally get to delete some notes when someone else comes up with the same idea and beats me to the market with it.

  12. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Esther – love it! We’ll slap together a bunch of duct-tape version, throw them in some graffiti packaging and film a sweaty Rope-N-Flow yoga jumprope infomercial at the studio…Hmmm, Rope-N-Flow(tm) hahaha!

    @ Dan, not so much regret, just momentarily pissed off. I generally, don’t do regret, just learn, apologize, if necessary, and move forward…most of the time 😉

    Plus, then I kind of laughed about it and, oddly, felt validated that someone else had put a ton of money into something I’d thought up, too.

    @ Jaime – oh great, so now I find out, I actually stole that idea from Jaime!

    @ Annedien – Love the silent audio CD idea, it’s a bit like that book “Everything Men Know About Women,” that’s like 200 pages…all blank. And, thanks for the reference to Rupert Sheldrake, I’ll have to check him out.

    @ Kris – Totally agree, this happens to me with my writing, too, all the time. And, the funny thing is, when I cross something off my list after someone else have covered it substantially the same way I’d have, I almost feel relieved.

  13. esther says:

    tae bo, ro flo, ro flo yo… i’m seeing a more than a class, i’m seeing a movement. not sure about the duct tape, but the graffiti packaging is genius. this is exactly what i’m talking about – now you’ve got your vibe creative hat on! i’m not even kidding, are you?

  14. Hey – I know how you feel. It sucks.

    I was writing a novel, based on a germ of an idea I’d read in a magazine. Unfortunately, I’m a slow writer and the idea I’d based it on was made into a film before I was anywhere near finished.

    I think we need to move a little faster when we get these great ideas.

  15. Denise Jensen says:

    Yeah, agree for sure – this did happen to me, came up with the idea for the mountain bike back in the 70’s, also found myself in hardware stores looking for screwdriver bits to put in my 1/4″ ratchet before someone came up with them, etc. etc. My question is, however, what to do with an invention idea for which you cannot come up with a use?