Warner Bros. stole our intellectual property from Harry Potter’s wand, says Kano

Warner Bros.  stole our intellectual property from Harry Potter’s wand, says Kano

Kanola, a venture-backed British start-up known for its own computer kits and software to teach coding and related STEM skills, accused Warner Bros. to copy any of its products and use its intellectual property (IP) to infringe.

The product in question is the Harry Potter: Wand Caster, which Warner Bros. announced in October and will ship to consumers in the US and UK just before Christmas for $150. London-based Kano has issued a “cease and desist” notice to Warner Bros. this week, TechCrunch saw it urging the media and entertainment giant to halt its marketing and advertising activities.

While Kano is probably best known for its Windows and Raspberry Pi-based modular PCs, in 2018 the company released a device reminiscent of a new Warner Bros wand. based on captivating children through coding magic, cauldrons that change color on the screen through advanced whistling movements with wands or flying feathers.

Several sensors power the wand, including an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer, which help the wand transmit its direction and movement to the tablet or PC it’s connected to.

Kano says he’s sold about 180,000 units of his Harry Potter encoder wand in recent years, a number that rises to 460,000 when you factor in similar gesture-activated products that Kano subsequently released in partnership with Disney, the Star Wars – and Frozen franchises.

While Kano no longer actively markets its Harry Potter wand, some of its retail partners, formerly including Apple and Target, do. I’m still selling.


Last April, Kano co-founder and CEO Alex Klein was awarded a patent for the wand’s gesture recognition system, which covers the basic mechanics of how it works: the user presses and holds a button to launch gesture recognition, hand and the screen shows a trace of the cursor when the user moves the wand to show a spell being cast in real time.

It’s worth noting that Kano released his wand as part of a brand licensing deal with Warner Bros., who own the rights to Harry Potter. That’s why Klein says he was concerned when he heard his new competing wand was released a few months ago.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Klein explained that thanks to the initial success he saw with the Harry Potter wand in 2018, Kano was approached by the Warner Bros. corporate division. detect spells and other possible use cases for the underlying technology.

And this is where it gets interesting about his feud with Warner Bros.

Unlike Kano’s original Harry Potter wand, which focused entirely on teaching kids how to code, Warner Bros. Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand is all about the smart home. It is designed to connect to devices such as TVs, lights, and speakers, allowing users to control their devices with “spells” and choreographed wall gestures.

According to Klein, Kano had already come up with such use cases with his own magic wand and made some early developments in the smart home space.

“While we made it easy for a person to hold down the wand button and cast a spell, we realized that this is a new language for human-computer interaction,” said Klein. “You could cast spells to explode Bertie Bott’s beans in all flavors on a screen, but also [also] Use gestures to control the light, unlock the door and adjust the music volume. We realized that this gestural form of interaction could be very powerful and extend to other areas of the smart home. So we went in, she [Warner Bros.] I loved the idea of ​​controlling the smart home.”

Klein showed a TechCrunch video of an early prototype of Kano’s wand that controls various connected devices, which he said was filmed in November 2018 as part of a demonstration in the Warner Bros. offices.

Fast forward to 2022, and when Warner Bros. launches a similar Harry Potter wand, Klein says he has contacted several people at the company for an explanation, adding that he was told an internal investigation would follow. But he said the line of communication had gone cold, leading to the cease and desist letter Kano sent to Warner Bros. this week.

“A direct comparison of encoder rod performance [Kano’s] and the magic wand [Warner Bros.’] and has now made it clear to a number of outside observers, including patent and intellectual property experts, that a problem has arisen,” the letter reads. “The new product leverages Kano’s intellectual property (multiple assets protected by patents, trade secrets, inventions, etc…), some of which were shared with WB in strict confidence during the many detailed agreements between the companies.”

the story so far

Founded in 2013, Kano has raised approximately $45 million in funding from notable backers, including European VC Index Ventures, Barclays and Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff. and Microsoft, which teamed up with Kano in 2019 to create a Windows-based PC.

Apparently, according to this post from 2021, Mark Zuckerberg is also a fan of Kano products.

Mark Zuckerberg apparently likes Kano. Photo credit: Mark Zuckerberg

However, Kano has been relatively quiet in recent years, announcing a round of layoffs in late 2019 and not releasing many new products after that. However, in 2021, the company teamed up with Kanye West to release the Stem Player, a device that allows users to isolate and mix elements of individual songs. he was eventually removed from the club due to anti-Semitic comments from West.

Today, Kano continues to sell the Stem Player without West’s involvement, and a few weeks ago, the company released the Stem Projector, as well as hints at all sorts of new products, including groceries and apparel. The company also announced the transition from its former PC DIY company when it announced it would develop its creative software suite, Kano World, as an independent company.

However, the company plans to stay at least somewhat true to its roots by developing a modular two-in-one device that can run Windows or ChromeOS, which Klein hopes to release later this year.

Kano’s next modular DIY PC. photo credit: Canoe

Financially things didn’t look too good for Kano. In its most recently reported fiscal year, which ended March 2021, Kano posted a pre-tax loss of £10.1 million ($12 million), though that is an improvement on its £16.8 million ($12 million) loss. 20.8 million) in the previous year. . The company told TechCrunch a few weeks ago that its preliminary accounts for fiscal year 2022 show a pre-tax profit of about £1.2 million ($1.5 million).

What’s next

While Klein is naturally interested in painting a seemingly optimistic picture of how things are going at Kano, the fact that he’s actively launching and developing new products is an encouraging sign. However, a contentious intellectual property dispute with a multi-billion dollar mass media conglomerate is probably the last thing you need right now.

In a modern David versus Goliath scenario, defending intellectual property rights in court as a relatively small startup doesn’t come cheap, Klein realizes as he ponders his next steps.

“It can cost up to $3 million to defend and protect a patent or intellectual property on a technology,” Klein said. “That works to the advantage of large companies. They can afford to send aggressive lawyers to smaller companies and involve them in the process.”

At least for now, there is nothing to say it will end like this. But when he does, Klein signals his willingness to do whatever it takes to defend Kano’s work. enough to open and close the case.

“If necessary, I will work late at night and on weekends and cover myself,” he said. “We will ensure that the hard work and creativity of our team is not misused or stolen. I may not have studied well, but all procedures are public and can be understood with a little effort.”

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. finally made a comment to TechCrunch saying, “Kano’s allegations are baseless.”*

*This story was updated shortly after publication with a response from a Warner Bros. spokesperson.

Source: La Neta Neta