Voice of IP
Clause 8
Prof. Dan Brown and Dan Jr.’s Patent Battle Against a Retail Giant

Prof. Dan Brown and Dan Jr.’s Patent Battle Against a Retail Giant

Prof. Dan Brown and his son, Dan Brown Jr., are straight out of central casting. Prof. Brown, the father, grew up in a working-class Irish family on Chicago’s South Side before eventually becoming a professor of engineering at Northwestern University. Dan Jr. is a moppy-haired marketing genius who is now President of LoggerHead Tools. As a result of a father-son argument, Prof. Brown invented an award-winning tool called the Bionic Wrench and pursued the audacious idea of manufacturing it in entirely in America. Sears positioned itself to become their exclusive retailer when the initial order of 300,000 units sold out between Black Friday and Christmas. Unfortunately, not long after, Sears started pressuring them to manufacture it in China to lower the price of the bionic wrench.

“It was pure greed. And we said no,” Prof. Brown said.

When Prof. Brown refused, Sears got another company, Apex, to make a knockoff of the bionic wrench in China. So, LoggerHead Tools, represented by Skiermont Derby, took them to court. They were on their way to being vindicated when the death of the original federal judge, assigned to the case, put that into doubt.

Today, they continue to tell the story of their “David and Goliath” battle in hopes that the patent law can be improved to support America’s innovators.

“This is not the type of due process you think someone should have to go through,” Dan Jr. says. “Where is the reward?"

Join us on this episode of Clause 8 as we talk to Prof. Brown and Dan Jr. about the twists and turns of their story, why they continue to have faith in America’s patent system, and what it’s like to work with your dad.

Episode Highlights 

[03:35] A patent partnership: By the time they obtained the patent for the Bionic Wrench, Prof. Brown had already secured patents for many other products. His son, Dan Jr., learned the ins and outs of patenting by shadowing his father.

[06:15] The Bionic Wrench is born: The lightbulb went on when Dan Jr. tried to use robo-grip adjustable pliers to change the blade on a lawnmower.

[11:44] Keeping it in the U.S.: Prof. Brown talks about how his insistence on manufacturing the Bionic Wrench in America was due to how he was raised and what he saw when he brought products to China as a consultant.

[17:25] Sears pitches a deal: Sears placed a major order for LoggerHead's Bionic Wrench and it turns into an incredibly successful item for Sears. However, Sears is not happy when the Browns refuse to lower the price by outsourcing manufacturing to China.

[22:53] The smoking gun emails: Sears tried to make a similar product to avoid patent issues but couldn’t get the tool to work

[26:51] National coverage: The media is not always friendly to patent owners but Prof. Brown and Dan Jr.’s story got the attention of the New York Times and ABC News.

[35:31] A new judge turns the tables: After the original judge on the trial died and the jury ruled in favor of LoggerHead Tools, a new judge upended the verdict in a way that surprised all sides .

[38:46] Rule 36: A 15 minute hearing and a two-line decision from the Federal Circuit ended their battle.

[45:57] It’s about more than a patent: How LoggerHead Tools managed to survive after the battle with Sears.

[49:37] The bright side: Dan Jr. created the InstaShield product that they come up with during the pandemic.

[55:29]: Made in China: Prof. Brown and Dan Jr. discuss the America's reliance on other countries for essential products and the challenge it presents for American manufacturers.

[58:56] A broken system: Prof. Brown presents some potential solutions to the broken patent system, starting with making willful infringement a crime, reassessing the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, and working toward a more inclusive, equitable industry.

[1:06:43] The family business: “You have to learn how to do a lot of deep breathing and meditation,” Dan Jr.

Voice of IP
Clause 8
The podcast listened to by sophisticated in-house counsel, judges from around the world, IP policymakers, senior USPTO officials, and top patent dealmakers and attorneys to stay ahead of the curve by understanding the personalities and forces shaping IP.
Eli Mazour’s love of talking to people – along with his belief in the importance of America’s patent system – led him to start Clause 8. Clause 8 features conversations that provide strategic insights about how to best deal with various patent-related issues. Some of the previous guests include America’s great innovators, federal judges, USPTO Directors, top IP staffers on Capitol Hill, and Carole Baskin’s attorney from the documentary Tiger King.
It's the #1 podcast about IP and is in the top 2.5% of all podcasts according to Listen Score. The podcast has been covered and cited in many publications, including Bloomberg, Law360, Courthouse News Service, Above the Law, IAM, and Original Jurisdiction.