Fidget Spinner Most Likely Not Invented to Distract Palestinian Kids From Throwing Stones

While Catherine Hettinger did obtain a patent for a spinning device in 1997, it has little resemblance to the fidget spinner that's become a sensation among kids and adults

A shopper browses fidget spinners displayed for sale by a street vendor in New York, May 12, 2017.
Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

An investigation has thrown doubt on the story of the Florida woman who claimed to have invented the fidget spinner toy while looking for a way to distract young Palestinian boys from clashing with Israeli police.

“It started as a way of promoting peace,” Catherine Hettinger told CNN Money last week.

Bloomberg News confirmed Thursday that Hettinger was granted a patent for a spinning device in 1997. But Hettinger’s device, which she pitched unsuccessfully to the toymaker Hasbro, had little in common with the ubiquitous fidget spinner sold today resembling a coaster-sized propeller with a bearing in the middle.

Two patent experts who reviewed Hettinger’s idea at Bloomberg’s request doubt it was the precursor of the current toy, despite an account on Wikipedia suggesting otherwise.

“In reading it, it doesn’t appear to cover the products that people are selling now,” Jeffrey Blake, a partner at a law firm focused on intellectual property, told Bloomberg.

Hettinger, 62, a chemical engineer by training, did not disagree.

“Let’s just say that I’m claimed to be the inventor,” she said. “You know, ‘Wikipedia claims,’ or something like that.”

A Kickstarter campaign for for Hettinger’s device shows a child spinning a toy that looks nothing like the fidget spinners currently on the market.

Hettinger told CNN Money that she brainstormed her device after visiting Israel and hearing of young Palestinians throwing rocks at Israel soldiers. So far, no one has challenged that part of the story.