Brum Brum, a wooden balance bike created by a Latvian lawyer, looks an awful lot like Zum Zum, a wooden balance bike created by an American-registered company and now seeking crowd-funding on Kickstarter.com. Zum Zum is promoting its product with the help of Sheffield downhiller Steve Peat. Both companies are fighting over which was the first to launch.
The balance bike market, created by Like-a-bike of Germany in 1997, is now a mature and crowded one so Brum Brum and Zum Zum have created balance bikes made from bent birch or plywood, which both claim offers suspension for young riders. The similarity between the wooden bikes from Brum Brum and Zum Zum has led to the outbreak of a war of words.
Like-a-bike was produced by a Germany company called Kokua and founded by Rolf Mertens. Kokua is a Hawaiian word meaning “in harmony”. Brum Brum and Zum Zum, on the other hand, are very much not in harmony.
Brum Brum has become one of the backers of Zum Zum in order to post messages on Zum Zum’s Kickstarter page.
Brum Brum wrote:
“The copyrighted material is the design of the balance bike … Our intellectual property is protected by design patent and the actions of ZumZumBike infringes our patented rights. We are aware of the persons involved in the infringement and we have started criminal proceedings in Latvia against those persons.”
NextGen Bikes LLC, maker of the Zum Zum, responded on Kickstarter:
“This is one of many comments we have received in the last days from the same people. We want to make this clear to anyone who reads – there are no criminal proceedings against us that we would know of. We DO have a design patent and we can show it too. We have not infringed any patented rights. This is our bike and our design.
“Our supporters do not need to worry – if these people were right, it would all have been settled with legal actions. This is not the case and it is obvious that these people are simply creating a commotion to advertise their own product.
“We will not stop and be intimidated by bullies with an agenda.”
Zum Zum claims that it first started working on its bike in July 2014.
On MTB-mag.com, a comment said to be from Brum Brum, pulled no punches:
“We, at brumbrumbikes, had a meeting with a group of ''potential investors'', sad to say they were nothing but backstabbing thieves who stole our third prototype and started a whole new business with it and calling it their first model.”
Brum Brum is said to be the idea of Riga-based lawyer Krišjānis Jermaks. Zum Zum’s “about us” information on Kickstarter provides no details on company officers instead using Steve Peat to say “While looking for the perfect mix of design and functionality, they contacted many designers and manufacturers to explore all the possible options. While working with them, they gathered a team of people who shared my interests and wanted to create the perfect bike themselves. After a lot of work we created the ZumZum bike.”
In claims that will anger other balance bike makers (and parents who chose to take pedals off standard childrens’ bikes) Zum Zum suggests that “our natural suspension system makes the bike safer than simpler bikes.”
It adds: “Hitting rocks or riding on gravel without such amortization can seriously damage the spine of a still developing child. This problem is eliminated with the flexible birch frame that absorbs all the shocks and provides a smooth ride … Pedal bikes are heavier and have no suspension system. This makes the bike not as manageable and more cumbersome. Usually children intuitively stand up a little on their pedals when they are about to hit a rock on the road to evade injuries to the backbone. That is not possible if the pedals are taken off, so even if they will see the bump on the road, it won’t be possible for them to dodge it. It will either turn them off from riding a bike, or worse – damage their spine.”
BikeBiz.com has requested statements from both companies. Neither have so far replied