Amid Craze, Fidget Spinner Inventor Makes Nothing

A cash-strapped Catherine Hettinger let the patent expire
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2017 12:36 PM CDT

(Newser) – It's hard to make money if you don't have any. That's the lesson from Catherine Hettinger, who is credited with inventing the original fidget spinner about three decades ago. In 2004, she says she could not afford the $400 patent renewal fee and thereby had to surrender it. "I just didn't have the money," she tells the Guardian. "It's that simple." Now, fidget spinners are all the rage—they brought in revenue of $2.6 million in April, reports the Wall Street Journal—but Hettinger hasn't made a dime. She says she's not bitter, however, and is hoping to cash in on a "classic" version of her design via Kickstarter.

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“Several people have asked me: ‘Aren’t you really mad?’" she says. "But for me I’m just pleased that something I designed is something that people understand and really works for them." Hettinger, now 62, says she concocted the device in the early 1990s to occupy her toddler daughter. She tells Time she was also inspired while on a trip to Israel when she saw young boys throwing rocks and wanted to give them an alternative. In any event, she got a patent in the 1990s and had a small measure of success at toy fairs. But toy-makers passed, including Hasbro, which now makes them today. "Maybe if it was some kind of exploitative product—like a new style of cigarettes—and my only motivation was to make money, I’d have a different attitude,” says Hettinger of the gizmo's popularity. “But I am just thrilled.” (Read more toys stories.)

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