Final Update 2/21/09: Klutz is working with Evil Mad Scientist Labs and it looks like everyone will be satisfied.
Updated below, 2/20/09!
Evil Mad Scientist Labs (whom I have followed for a long time) wrote about a bristlebot (a unique take on a well-known vibration-robot idea) that they designed from a cell-phone vibration motor and the head of a toothbrush. It's a great little idea. Make magazine blog reports that a famous kid's craft publisher has taken the idea and without any agreement or credit to EMS. There are inquiries to the publisher. I hope that they can work things out so both profit, along with those of us who would like to buy a kit. Evil Mad Scientist Labs has not weighed in on this violation, or if they think there is one [See Update below!].
Everyone who is an inventor and any company that would like to be able to protect the products they develop understands that dated notebooks and detailed information are the key to proving they had an idea first or that their idea was unique. Claims can only be based on proof. It seems to me that, in this day and age, one's blog and you tube videos are thier documentation. Any one who doesn't have the notebooks is out of luck--as they should be. Without evidence they may as well claim they had the idea for pink elephants--it's just as meaningful.
Publishing one's photograph or other work, even if it was published in a magazine or any other place where the general public could view it, cut it out, or copy it does not mean one surrenders one's rights to own it and decide on how it's used and their level of compensation if they do allow it to be used.
Intellectual property is just as important to protect as other types of property. Recognizing mental effort shows that our entire society understands that real progress and results come from man's mind. Without ideas there would be no advancement. Without the right to profit from one's ideas, there would be less incentive for some of the best improvements. I hope everyone who wants to become rich by inventing something that I need or want to make my life easier. I will be happy to contribute to making them rich!
Update 2/19/09 a: Evil Mad Scientist Labs responds! They were not contacted and it does seem that they have a claim on the very name Klutz is using. Scholastic responds here. They claim they were working on the idea for a long time before Evil Mad Scientist Labs published their on-line.
Seen here, here, here, here, here.
Update 2/20/09 b: Make has gotten an e-mail from Scholastic. It sounds like Scholastic will be talking to Evil Mad Science Labs. Good. Although the Make post says the issue isn't about "copyright, trademarks, or patents." What, precisely, are they concerned with then? Just a credit to Evil Mad Scientist Labs? If Make is only concerned with some niceties, they sure have made a tempest in a teapot.
I'm appalled that a large publishing company, like Scholastic, would rip off an idea. I would be appalled at a small company or idividual as well, but I could understand a mistake more, minus a legal team. It's like blogging. You may not mind if someone spreads your idea, but the etiquette is to get a link-back.
Update 2/20/09 c: cnet has a nice treatment that is a quick overview of the controversy. No additional content and no opinion. Boing Boing addresses the topic as well and includes an update about Klutz contacting Evil Mad Scientist Labs.