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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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 - p97-98.jpg [ 1.02 MiB | Viewed 1128 times ]
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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.
SU1140809A1.jpg [ 1.54 MiB | Viewed 1128 times ]
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.
EP2529802A1.jpg [ 1.48 MiB | Viewed 1128 times ]
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_2.jpg [ 193.47 KiB | Viewed 1128 times ]
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 - 5.jpg [ 222.36 KiB | Viewed 1128 times ]
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.
Game with Balls - Other.jpg [ 271.51 KiB | Viewed 1128 times ]
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.