Page 12                                             Spring 1988   

U. S. Patent Given to Dube for Design Techniques

Used to Construct Airflite Club


After five years of trying, Brian Dube was recently awarded a U.S. patent for the method of production he uses to make his Airflite juggling club.


Dube appealed his case several times since applying for the Airflite patent originally in 1982. "The patent office really raked us through the coals," he said.


Shortly after he began manufacturing juggling equipment in New York City in 1975, Dube began work on the American club, a hollow club with a uniformly thick plastic body. He derived the club's optimum balance point from the innovations of earlier club manufacturers like Harry Lind and Stu Raynolds.


Dube, who majored in math at New York University , calculated this "ideal" balance point and attempted to use it in construction of the American club. But he ran into difficulties. The center of gravity was too far from the handle. "You could get used to it, but it juggled like a hammer, " he said. He tried to counterbalance the American club with lead tape around the knobs, but quickly decided he needed a cheaper, less toxic solution.


Several years later while working on the Airflite, Dube discovered that he could control the balance point by varying the club's wall thickness. He now makes the wall at the base of the Airflite club approximately twice as thick as in the handle. According to the patent, the Airflite's balance point is located at between 55 and 59 percent of the length of the club.


He says he applied for a patent as soon as he discovered the method for controlling weight with wall thickness. "I made three one-piece hollow clubs in sequence. No one had made a hollow polyethylene club before," Dube said. "I applied for the patent before anyone made a club similar to the Airflite."


He also claims to have invented molded polypropylene rings, solid wood torches and vinyl Stage Balls.


A breakthrough in affordability, the Airflite sells for under $10, whereas prior clubs had climbed to more than $20 each. The savings resulted from mass production of the Airflite, which doesn't require the hand work necessary to install dowels, rubber knobs and a handle wrap on earlier model Dube clubs.


What impact will the Airflite patent have on the market? Some manufacturers responded with surprise to the news that Dube had received a patent on a prop very similar to ones they also manufacture.


JuggleBug owner Dave Finnigan said it would be difficult to prove the originality of the Airflite. "The one-piece polyethylene club was developed by a number of people over a number of years. No one assumed they invented it," he said.


Todd Smith, owner of Todd Smith Products in Cleveland, Ohio, said he will continue to experiment with hollow club designs. "There is always room for more innovation," he said.


For now, Dube says he isn't eager to pursue expensive litigation, even though he feels confident the patent would hold up in court. "I'm 100 percent sure I invented the product," he said. "I wouldn't have spent all the money ($2,000 for applica­tion and legal fees) and time to get the pa­tent if! wasn't sure." He added that the patent office spent an "extensive" amount of time researching the product.

He said he would be happy for a larger manufacturing company to purchase the patent. However, he admitted, "Juggling is still a fringe kind of thing. Club manufacturing is something only ajuggler wants to go into." *

juggling club patent
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