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Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart
Mini Article – Volume 22, Issue 10

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Famous Water Toy Inventor Inducted into Hall of Fame

By Zachary P. Grant 

Among the esteemed group of inventors honored this year by the National Inventors Hall of Fame was Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker® water sprayer. The water-pump inspired toy, ubiquitous with summer fun, was first introduced in 1990 and quickly rose to fame among children and adults. Today, the lifetime sales of the Super Soaker toys generated over 1 billion dollars, and the toy itself was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2015.

Johnson’s journey as an inventor was, quite literally, out of this world. After earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering, Johnson took to the skies with the U.S. Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Johnson worked on a stealth aircraft program for the U.S. Air Force and contributed to several programs with NASA for spacecraft projects set to visit the planets of Jupiter and Saturn.

It was during his time in the U.S. Air Force that Johnson developed the concept for a new type of water pump toy. Like many great inventions, Johnson’s idea was inspired by a mishap. While working on an improved heat pump system, Johnson witnessed the machine spring a leak and spray a stream of water across the room. This accident gave Johnson his “lightbulb moment” and he set out to create a new type of water toy that utilized a pressurized tank system.  Johnson earned several U.S. patents for his water toys, including a unique variation that takes the shape of an archery bow.

The unexpected popularity of the toy took Johnson by surprise, but did not distract him from his higher calling in advanced energy technologies. Johnson used the money generated from the commercialization of the beloved toy to support his research company that develops new types of energy conversion machines, such as the Johnson Thermo-Electrochemical Converter System, a type of solid-state heat engine. Learn more about Lonnie Johnson and hear his interview with the U.S. Patent Office HERE.


Published May 20, 2022

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