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Buckyballs Throws In the Towel 383

RenderSeven writes "As previously reported the immensely popular Buckyballs office toys have been targeted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Last week Maxfield and Oberton, the maker of Buckyballs gave up the battle and announced they would discontinue sales and close. However, being driven out of business is not enough for R Buckminster Fuller's estate, who has filed yet another lawsuit that they own all rights to the name "buckyballs" despite widespread use of the term. If you still haven't bought your own yet, a few thousand sets in stock are still available."
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Buckyballs Throws In the Towel

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  • by biojayc ( 856286 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:45PM (#41919755)
    The company I work for bought everyone on our team a set. Probably worst investment ever. Productivity has definitely suffered. But look at my cool artistic design!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:47PM (#41919787)

    ... on eBay, and you will find multiple vendors selling exactly the same thing, but not called buckyballs. They still exist - just not under that stupid name.

    • by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:54PM (#41919897)

      This is what they are, seriously?

      Having never heard of Buckyballs, I had to check the site out. Turns out that $30-$40 per set won't exactly break the budget, but you can assemble a similar kit from eBay for a LOT less (including shipping).

    • zero results. Did you try this before posting? I believe they are shutting them down.
    • by Petron ( 1771156 )

      The ban isn't on buckyballs specifically, it is on all similar products. Zen Magnets [] (a competitor) also under the ban, their last update:
      "CPSC Selects nuclear option. Magnet spheres may soon be harder to acquire than ammunition in the US.
      [Update 11/2] The magnet fight is not looking good."

      • by macraig ( 621737 )

        I seem to recall similar regulatory stupidities regarding chemistry science kits in the last decade? Both are examples of think-of-the-children regulation stretched beyond reasonable into the realm of authoritarianism for the sake of itself.

  • by El Puerco Loco ( 31491 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:50PM (#41919827)

    Dammit, freedom isn't free. And if the price of my freedom to be entertained by buckyballs is measured in the lives of toddlers, so be it. And now, I think I'll go outside for a nice game of Jarts. Who wants to be goalie?

    • by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @01:32PM (#41920463)
      Not just toddlers, we also had natural selection at work in pre-teens []. Now how are we going to thin the herd? Start handing out guns?
      • Just going to put this out there -- how is eating a dangerous man made object natural selection? We're engineered to avoid obvious dangers and to explore our world. Part of that is that humans DO have as a adaptive trait the willingness to eat almost anything. We learn what is poisons and our elders are supposed to keep our infants/ignorant from eating that stuff. I mean, nightshade berries are very pretty round red balls that would probably be fun to play with -- should I let my one year old play with
        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          You being the adult need to protect your child from belladonna as well as magnets. You failing to protect your child is nature selecting against your genetic line.

          I am not a fan of that line of thinking, but we should charge these parents with neglect before blaming a company when people abuse their product.

          • Remember -- these are being sold AS toys.

            But not as children's toys: they have big warnings saying "keep away from children." You have to check-acknowledge reading the warning when you buy them from the site.

    • by D'Sphitz ( 699604 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @03:48PM (#41922985) Journal
      accidental deaths of children due to handguns in the US: ~500 per year
      accidental deaths of children choking on balloons: ~1000 per year
      accidental deaths of children by magnetic desk toys: 0
      Greatest Country on Earth!
  • by skipkent ( 1510 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:50PM (#41919829)

    I am a baker and normal dragées just don't work the same.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:50PM (#41919833) Journal

    I don't see how kids can swallow these, not with their guts full of washing machine gel packs.

  • State gone Mad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:51PM (#41919847) Homepage Journal

    Oh, look, the State destroying a business and free choice in the first part of the summary and then the State enabling people to harass other people over imaginary property in the second. Thank goodness they're around to keep things civil.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RanCossack ( 1138431 )
      This is as bad as when Big Government sinisterly destroyed the hardworking Americans employed in the Asbestos industries. Damn that rascally "the State" and the institutions that strive to protect its citizens! The sooner we use these overzealous examples as an excuse to throw the whole thing out, the better we'll be.

      Unless history is any indication, I suppose, but hyperbole and false indignation is all that separates us from animals.
      • Re:State gone Mad (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @02:58PM (#41922133)

        This is as bad as when Big Government sinisterly destroyed the hardworking Americans employed in the Asbestos industries.

        Yeah! Who cares that in one case you could be harmed just by being in the same room with the microscopic deadly terror and wouldn't know it was happening, and the other you have to actually decide to deliberately eat more than one of the macroscopic fiendish killers? Yeah! That makes no difference.

  • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <> on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:52PM (#41919869)

    So if you want rare earth magnets before they're officially banned, get them from Cheaper and higher quality. Also, they're not jerks like the buckyballs guys are.

    Fun video here comparing the two []

    I know it looks like an advertisement posting, but as someone who owns a crudload of rare earth magnets, zenmagnets seem to me to be the best. I keep a mandala set on my desk at work for downtimes, and I have a manager who keeps trying to make the perfect soccer ball when I'm not looking.

    - and if you get the colored ones, just beware - the color tends to come off very easily if you're rough at all with them. You've been warned.

    • by RenderSeven ( 938535 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @01:16PM (#41920221)

      they're not jerks like the buckyballs guys are.

      In what way are they jerks? They seem a little peeved at the CPSC but I would be too. Also note that the CPSC has targeted Zen Magnets as well: Zen Magnets was the first company to receive an administrative complaint from the Consumer Product Safety Commission without a record of injuries.

    • I agree that we need to have some more personal responsibility. Comparisons to Jarts isn't fair. Those are meant to be thrown into the air in a yard, with people in it. Not doing the action the Jart was designed for properly could cause serious harm. i.e. A mistake or poor form in the intended execution of a Jart throw could seriously injure someone. This isn't the same. I think making sure kids weren't buying them would probably be sufficient.

      Those disclaimers aside, if you have rare earths at home, pleas
  • See (Score:2, Funny)

    by Entropy98 ( 1340659 )

    Regulations work! If it wasn't for these bureaucrats we'd all be dead from lead poisoning, asbestos, and big gulps. Thankfully these unnamed heroes from the government are here to save us from ourselves.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Lead and Asbestos regulations were needed. Those are things that still threaten lives, since the Chinese seem to love to add lead to everything.

      These magnets should be regulated to be sold only to those over 18. Like many other potentially dangerous products.

      • by RobinH ( 124750 )
        While I disagree with the ban, your logic doesn't make sense. Toddlers aren't running into Walmart and buying these, and I don't think anyone's worried about 12-year-olds ingesting them. Limiting it to 18 would do nothing.
        • Re:See (Score:5, Interesting)

          by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @01:16PM (#41920223)

          Actually 12 year olds are a decent size group that is eating these. They use them to simulate tongue, cheek and labret piercings.

          Limiting it to 18 plus might stop some of those idiot preteens. It would also make it more clear that these products have some level of danger involved.

          • If you're 12 and eating these, I consider that natural selection that's good for the gene pool.

            • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

              They use them to simulate piercings then accidentally swallow them.

              I blame the parents and the 12 year olds for misusing this product.

          • Actually 12 year olds are a decent size group that is eating these. They use them to simulate tongue, cheek and labret piercings.

            Or, you could just put the blame where it lies. Parents who don't teach their children the dangers of incredibly strong magnets before giving it to them as a toy.

            If you take your kid hunting, and don't teach them proper gun safety, it's not the fault of the guns when an accident happens. It's the same issue here. Why the hell can't people take personal responsibility for their mistakes? What's next? People blaming mcdonalds that their super-sized fries are making them fat? Oh, wait...

      • These magnets should be regulated to be sold only to those over 18. Like many other potentially dangerous products.

        Like candy bars, or batteries?

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          I was thinking more like spray paint, glues, industrial solvents, and heavy metals.

          • I was thinking more like spray paint, glues, industrial solvents, and heavy metals.

            You just HAD to include loud rock&roll bands there, eh?

  • by EasyTarget ( 43516 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:52PM (#41919873) Journal

    magnets.. bad.

    Guns, assault rifles, knives, mace spray, tazers, baseball bats, and realistic 3rd person shooters... good.

    Glad you guys have got your retail priorities straight and are protecting your kids so well.

    • by Enry ( 630 )

      Magnets aren't in the constitution.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Don't forget Kinder eggs []. Maybe we can get Colorado and Washington to legalize these too.

    • magnets.. bad.

      Guns, assault rifles, knives, mace spray, tazers, baseball bats, and realistic 3rd person shooters... good.

      Glad you guys have got your retail priorities straight and are protecting your kids so well.

      The difference is that most of the things you name are obviously dangerous. A coffee-table toy is not. They are also easy to lock up. A toy consisting of tens of tiny pieces (with any two sufficient to cause severe injury) is not.

  • by SirAstral ( 1349985 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:52PM (#41919875)

    we have to protect another child on behalf of the parents not capable of using good common sense.

    We need to stop making scissors of all kinds, stop the production of any toys that a small child might play with but not marketed to them, and even take kids balls away because someone might get hurt.

    Stupid people doing stupid things... being going on for millenia, and every effort to stop them has failed.

    • Well said! You, sir, are welcome to play goalie in my Jarts tournament any day!

    • by Marc_Hawke ( 130338 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @02:27PM (#41921553)

      We used to buy Magnetix. []

      They were great fun...simple...self assembling, but you could do some fun things. It seemed like a great toy for kids. After we had gathered a sizable collection, we heard about the warning of swallowing the magnets. Coincidentally we also started noticing the magnets falling out of their plastic housings.

      So, we heavily increased the supervision as the kids were playing with them. Made sure to keep everything glued in tight and or disposed of. Basically I guess that means I'm a responsible parent.

      In the end though, we stopped buying them and switch to a toy that was less hazardous. That means the warning effectively became a ban ...for my house...

      I think that's how it should work with pretty much everything.

  • Zen Magnets (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Rizz ( 1319 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @12:54PM (#41919907)

    Zen Magnets [] hasn't yet caved to the CPSC.

    • That might have something to do with the fact that they haven't been targeted by the CPSC at all since they were a marginal player in the market compared to Buckyballs. Now that Buckyballs is going down, if Zen rises to fill that void, you can bet that the CPSC will go after them as well.

      • ANNNNNNND...I'm an idiot. Sometimes I wish there was a simple button you could press on your old posts to color them differently or somehow indicate that you no longer stand by what you said.

  • The estate's claim that the use of the name infringes on their rights (which is a patently ridiculous claim, in my view) is apparently quite consistent with R. Buckminster Fuller's views --- supposedly he would claim credit to his student's work but saw himself as simply protecting his own intellectual property by so doing.

  • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @01:10PM (#41920137)

    Still interested in starting a small business in the US?

    Didn't think so....

    Starting a small business in the US today is less like reaching for your dreams and more like Running Man where you get a 30 minute head start before the death lawyers start chasing you...

    • by BLKMGK ( 34057 )

      Wow I wish I hadn't posted so I could mod this - VERY good point!

  • They could follow precedent and just rename the product "Butthole Estate"

  • I'd assume the countries, which have not yet banned those magnets, make up a sufficiently large market for at least one or two manufacturers of them to still be in business. I can't say whether it would then be legal for individuals to import some for their own entertainment.
  • If your #1 product kills children, you fail.
    One of my favorite toys growing up was Girder & Panel. It was suddenly removed from the house after about a year because it was recalled. The reason? Kids were eating the rubber rivets and killing themselves.

    • by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @01:39PM (#41920617) Homepage

      It's not the fault of the product when parents don't supervise their children and allow them to eat random household objects.

      And I realize its not easy. Parenting is hard. If you're not up for it, don't have kids.

      This is an adult product. It says it on the box. It shouldn't be required to meet child toy standards.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      If you make claims without citations like that you fail.

      I do not believe anyone has died, some people did require medical care though.

      I bet S&Ws #1 product could kill kids. There are lots of common household items that could kill kids. You think eating a AAA battery would go well for a child?

    • by RenderSeven ( 938535 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @01:48PM (#41920789)
      I will pass that epiphany on to General Motors for you. Buckyball fatalities: 0, auto fatalities: ~40,000 per year.

      Oh, wait, now you say 'I meant injuries not deaths'. OK lets play that one:

      There are approximately 2.2 million Buckyball magnet sets in circulation, and as each set has 216 magnets, there is a grand total of 475.2 million individual magnet pieces. This equals to approximately 1 injury per 100,000 Buckyball sets and less than 1 injury per 21.5 million individual magnet pieces.

      Dogs are statistically over 120 times more dangerous
      Tennis injuries are 1,228 times more dangerous
      Soccer, Cheerleading, poisoning through common household chemicals are all over 1,000 times more dangerous.
      Skateboarding is 890 times more dangerous.
      Pools, cars, kitchen knives, firearms, balloons, snowblowers are all statistically more dangerous than Buckyball magnets.

      That is a LOT of fails by your criteria. Yet where is the CPSC outrage on dogs, racquets, soccer balls, draino, skateboards, pool life jackets, ginsu knifes, and so on?

    • I was a Girder and Panel freak... There were two eras for the sets... The first era saw the plastic panels made out of a fairly sturdy plastic... don't know the formula, but it was a more cardboard like plastic. These sets also had red girders, and most notably, small plastic "toppers" for lack of a better word... they were like a really really short girder, but had the nubs that held the panels on, and could also serve to hold down the roof pieces.

      The later sets that came out were basically the same, ex
  • How do they work?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, a North pole loves a South pole, and they spend a night sleeping with each other, then later the Stork Magnet comes along and reverses polarity at just the right moment to drop a new little bundle of joy.

      Please note that many states have legislated against homo-polar relationships. Marriage can never work between North-North and South-South poles.

  • How about instead of arbitrarily banning products that some obsessed mothers think are somehow more dangerous for their toddlers, mostly because it is new, we just force all packaging to list the number of lives the contents have cost.

    Buckyballs (Killed 20 infants since 1995) For example (I have no idea how many, if any, have died of been seriously injured by BBs).
    Then we can make informed choices and be held responsible if we allow children to kill themselves will objects we know are dangerous. BB are not designed to be given to infants, just like a nail gun is not designed to be given to an infant; That does not mean they should be banned.

    Personally, I love dangerous things and would consider that as good advertising, for those of you with overprotected children well they do no have to buy one.

  • Warning Label (Score:4, Informative)

    by screwzloos ( 1942336 ) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @01:38PM (#41920597)
    Keep Away From All Children!
    Do not put in nose or mouth.
    Swallowed magnets can stick to
    intestines causing serious injury or death.
    Seek immediate medical attention if
    magnets are swallowed or inhaled.

    It says right on the little plastic container that this isn't for children. The cardboard retail box gets torn up and thrown away, so I can understand a label on that *possibly* not being enough. The inner plastic cube is pretty explicit too, though.

    There are a handful of stupid people somewhere out there, so bureaucrats close down a business that I like and decide that I can't have something that is of no risk to me or anyone around me. Gotta love this world we live in.
  • .... so men don't get them. /wink

    They really do sell Blue Buckyballs. So now when I play with them, blue buckyballs, and I roll them around you blue balls won't feel all alone. /wink

    Sorry, it was just so easy....

  • They are just shutting down their lines of small magnets (buckyballs and cubes). According to their website they still plan to sell the larger magnets and are planning new products.

    I have a feeling this was their plan all along, turning the CPSC action into a publicity stunt to sell out their remaining stock.

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.