Decide for yourself if the Levitron was "stolen" after reading...


by Mike & Karen Sherlock / Managing Directors, UFO

Update 5/30/99 - The Other Real Inventor
If you've already read this story, CLICK HERE to jump directly to the update.

As of 8/24/97 we have suspended sales of Levitrons, Super Levitrons & Levitron Perpetuators - in light of some recent astonishing revelations concerning the true origins of the Levitron Anti-Gravity Top.

Before we ever heard of the Levitron Anti-Gravity Top, we made our living as writers, teachers & video producers, with long experience in business. However, we had no experience in retail, toys, mail order, or the web. Two years ago we found the Levitron in a mail-order catalog, and immediately "flipped out" over it. We saw this wondrous thing as much more than an "Executive Toy", and - in line with our desire to "uplift" people - recognized it as the perfect embodiment of our philosophy that more is possible in life than one might suspect. We played with it so much that we became Levitron Masters. And in doing so we realized that to fly the Levitron well wasa real art. An art that we were in a perfect position to teach.

So, we tracked down the company that licensed it, and were introduced to a man named Bill Hones (rhymes with "bones") as "the inventor". He told us that he had a degree in physics, but had worked mostly as a bush pilot. We proposed to him that we produce an instructional video to teach people to fly the Levitron. We would cover the entire cost of production, all he had to do was appear in it. Bill agreed, we met for a few hours and shot the video, and the result became "Secrets of the Levitron: The Art of Levitation". CLICK HERE to see a picture of Bill Hones, taken from our video.

We were surprised when we showed him the finished tape, featuring "Bill Hones, Inventor of the Levitron", that he didn't grab it up and put one with every Levitron. But he wished us well, and we went on to start selling a few Levitrons on the side. Our goal was to bring "Levitation to the Masses", so we cut the retail price by at least a third and included our video free with every top. Our gamble was that we could make up the difference in volume. It worked, and the business "took off." Then it occurred to us that what we felt about the Levitron was a perfect match to what Art Bell was doing on his syndicated talk radio shows. So we began to advertise our Levitron and "Exclusive Instructional Video" package on his show. And the rest is - as they say - history. The video worked great, and we became the largest single retailer of Levitrons in the world. This website soon followed.

To say that Bill Hones "ripped off" the Levitron may sound harsh, but this is exactly how we first heard the situation described to us. Commendably, it was the scientists who blew the whistle. In March 1997, we got an e-mail through this website from a physicist named Martin Simon at UCLA, offering us a link to a paper he'd written with two of his colleagues on the Levitron. We readily agreed, linked to it, and only then did we read it. CLICK HERE to read it yourself. It's also linked on the bottom of our "How Does The Levitron Work?" page.

In the introduction to the paper, in terse but clear language, it's revealed that the true inventor is a man from Vermont named Roy Harrigan! Shocked, we called Bill Hones and asked him what the deal was. He brushed it off, explaining that he had found Harrigan's patent for a permanent magnet levitating top, and contacted him. He told us that Roy's invention was unstable and "didn't really work." Bill said that he'd tried to collaborate with Roy, but that Roy had "strange ideas".

Then, as Bill tells it, he and his father Ed Hones, a former Los Alamos physicist, had gone to work on it, and made enough advances that they earned their own patent. Even then, Bill says, he offered Roy a percentage, (presumably out of the kindness of his heart) of a whopping 2 1/2%. But Roy "didn't respond" says Bill, and so he finally "withdrew the offer." He explained that Martin Simon at UCLA didn't really understand what had happened and was mistaken in his assessment.

Since we had built an entire business around our exclusive video featuring Bill as the "Inventor of the Levitron", we realize in retrospect that we probably wanted to believe him. So, we accepted his explanation for the moment, but still couldn't quite forget about the issue. Soon after, Ed Hones paid his first visit to us, and we asked him about Harrigan. When some of his explanations seemed to be in contradiction to Bill's, it aroused our suspicions. So we made some frustrating attempts to find Roy Harrigan. Short of, we might add, contacting Martin Simon - since we didn't really know who to believe, and didn't want to "stir the pot".

Not long after that, we got a call from another scientist, a Professor of Chemistry at Yale University named Michael McBride, who was trying to get a hard-to-find new Super Levitron for a science "poster" that he was presenting. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he'd talked with Ed Hones, Martin Simon, Roy Harrigan-- Wait a minute, we said, what do you know about Roy? Oh, Michael opined, Roy was definitely "ripped off" by Hones, and anyone who's investigated the case agrees. Professor McBride had come to this conclusion completely independently, long before he heard of Martin Simon at UCLA. And he had been alerted to the truth the same way - just by looking at both patents.

Michael told us that Bill had walked away with Roy's nicely-working prototype, a mere five months before he suddenly filed his own patent. And on top of that, at least some of the "science" in the Hones patent is demonstrably false. Then he told us that Martin Simon at UCLA held his opinion because he had personally gone to Vermont, actually met Roy Harrigan, seen Roy's evidence, and had been unequivocally convinced.

Well, that did it. We traded Michael a Super Levitron for Roy Harrigan's phone number, and decided it was time to talk with Martin Simon directly. Marty told us that he had indeed gone to visit Roy, and had seen a videotape of Roy's working Levitron that Roy had sent to Bill before they'd ever met. Roy had even put some mirrors behind the floating top to prove there were no tricks. (One of Bill's office staff later let slip that they'd still suspected at first that it may have been done with wires!) CLICK HERE to see a still from Roy's video of his early prototype Levitron.

The fact that Roy has never received as much as a dime for the exploitation of his invention notwithstanding, what really angered Michael McBride, Martin Simon, and other scientists, was not just Bill's lack of basic respect for scientific authorship - or who gets credit for a discovery - but the blatant co-opting involved! As Martin Simon puts it, referring to Bill and Ed Hones: "They got it from Roy directly without acknowledgment. If they had independently discovered the same thing later, and developed it independently of Roy, I wouldn't have been as concerned. Then, it's just a question of who discovered it first. But, Bill and Ed Hones didn't really discover anything. Bill met with Roy, Roy showed Bill the discovery, Bill took the prototype. So, they appropriated his work for their own."

Marty was so bothered by the situation that he had actually sent Bill a letter, prior to his paper's publication, imploring Bill to do something to right a quite obvious wrong. CLICK HERE to read that letter. Bill had his lawyer, Saul Leitner, reply. In early drafts of Simon's paper, the Hones patent was labeled "a blatant failure of the Patent system to protect the small inventor." As Simon explains: "The language was toned down because the coauthors were skittish about getting involved in a business dispute." CLICK HERE to read Page 1 of the letter from Bill Hones' lawyer to Martin Simon. CLICK HERE to see page 2. In it, Saul Leitner acknowledges that he was the actual architect of the Hones Patent. The section of his letter that reads: "I am certain that you would not pay a royalty on a patent unless there was a legal basis to do so" pretty much sums up both his and Bill Hones' moral position.

Michael McBride was likewise appalled not only by the way Bill publicly implies - even though he may avoid saying it directly - that he came up with the whole idea of spin-stabilized levitation of permanent magnets "out-of-the-blue", but also the way he cuts Roy Harrigan completely out of the story! Michael later sent us a transcript of an appearance by Bill on the Laura Lee radio show, in which a phone caller asks him unexpectedly if "this particular device has already been patented?" Bill's flustered reaction to the question is very telling and - until the caller makes it clear he knows nothing of Roy - truly priceless. CLICK HERE to read this transcript in which Bill denies the existence of, as they say, "prior art".

The question is not even whether Bill Hones had been trying to float one magnet over another before he came across Roy Harrigan's patent. The question is, did the solution - to turn one magnet into a top and spin it - come from Roy? With Roy out of the story, Bill's version of "The Legend of the Levitron" tells it this way in a 12/96 article from"Discover" magazine (referring to Bill Hones): "But no matter what he did, he couldn't achieve a magnetic field close enough to perfect, the magnet on top would always flip over, inverting its poles and falling onto the base. Only after six years of failure, when he was at the brink of despair, did he get the idea to try to levitate a magnetized spinning top."

Unfortunately, as we've all heard, "Desperate men take desperate measures." This same article, by the way, uses another phrase, quite ironically, when it mentions that Bill was "aided and abetted" by his father, Ed!

So we consulted a newly-discovered "Patent Server" website, and for the first time, read both the Harrigan and Hones patents ourselves. And there, in the 1983 Harrigan patent, was the Amazing Levitron. The Hones patent seemed to add nothing new, except for some drawings of a hand. It looked to us like all Bill had patented was his hand! You can judge for yourself - CLICK HERE to see the 1983 Harrigan Patent, and CLICK HERE to see the 1995 Hones patent.

So we finally telephoned Roy ourselves, and at first he did sound a little "crazy" like Bill and Ed had implied, but the more we listened, the less crazy he sounded. He mostly sounded frustrated that such a blatant theft could continue for so long. So we got on a plane to Vermont to meet Roy. And a lawyer was waiting for us.

It seems that a former student of Mike McBride's named Michael Vary, had become a patent attorney, and Mike had made him aware of Roy's case. When we contacted Mr. Vary and told him we were going to see Roy, he decided to meet us there. We met over breakfast, and Michael proceeded to outline a huge pending legal action that his firm was planning on behalf of Roy Harrigan.

Roy tends to answer simple questions with long answers, but if you follow him, you realize he may be something of a genius. This guy has only a high-school diploma, but has, by his own estimation, about thirty patents, and over 100,000 inventions to his credit. Although Roy was born in 1942, he is a true 19th-century character, in the self-taught mold of Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Edison. And he is not, technically, a "scientist." CLICK HERE to see a picture of Roy Harrigan.

After spending a day with Roy, hearing his story and seeing his prototype, we absolutely knew that, after nearly two years of doing business with Bill Hones, we had finally met the real inventor.

So, we got on another plane to go have a meeting with Bill, and in the most pleasant tones we could muster, informed him that it had come to our attention that he was a thief and a liar! Well, like all good villains, he claims that he is innocent. He has a patent, he insisted. Roy probably deserves "something," he always believed. And he even "feels bad", he said, but maintains he did nothing illegal.

We said, basically, the technical legality of the patent is the smallest issue. For purely moral reasons, we argued, he had to come to some settlement with Roy. Bill then did some face-saving back-pedaling, and agreed to our plan to add Roy to our video with the title of "inventor", while changing Bill's title to "co-developer". When we pressed him, Bill even said that he'd "consider" making Roy a financial settlement offer before things went any further. At the time, he seemed sincere, and somewhat remorseful. So, we decided to give hima few weeks to hopefully relocate his conscience before Michael Vary initiated his first legal actions.

Trying to give Bill every benefit of the doubt, we agreed to his request to contact his lawyer, Saul Leitner, in order to hear Bill's "side of it." We faxed Saul a letter citing our principal conclusions about his claims on Bill's behalf that the Harrigan prototype "lacked stability, was difficult to operate, and might not be developable intoa commercial product." CLICK HERE to read the fax we sent to Saul. What was clear from the evidence we saw, was that the Harrigan model Levitron was, in fact, more stable than the Hones version, and even easier to operate. It was so easy, in fact, that it ironically might not have even needed our video! And, as far as it lacking commercial viability, the fact that Roy had built his prototype with cheap, easily obtainable components clearly belied this. Saul called us back, but simply refused to address any of these issues. Maybe he's been at it too long.

Shortly thereafter, we were contacted out-of-the-blue by a man named Les Adam who then sent us a copy of a magazine his magnet company puts out, featuring yet another Levitron on its cover! He told us that his brother and some others at his company had built it from some plans that had originally appeared in the classified ads in Popular Science magazine, and that he had been unable to find the original source for the plans when he'd tried. When we saw the magazine for ourselves, we felt like we had just been handed the O.J. Simpson shoe photos! There, on the magazine cover dated June 1991, was a photo - clearly - of a Levitron. The Hones patent wasn't even applied for until 1994. CLICK HERE to see this cover of "Magnets in your Future" magazine.  To make matters even worse - if that's possible - Les told us that he had gotten wind of the impending Hones patent before it had even been granted, and had sent Bill a copy of his magazine to show him that the device was already in existence. Bill simply never responded, and Les abandoned plans to market his model. One thing is certain; the thing was up and running before Bill Hones ever came along, but years after Roy Harrigan's patent was publicly available. Roy remembers that Bill had even asked him about this magazine at the time, but when Roy told him he was unaware of it, Bill declined to give him any details. This, even in spite of the fact that Les had ended his magazine article with a plea for the inventor to contact him, and a promise to set aside a portion of any sales!

Not to beat a dead horse, but there's even more. Yet another scientist named Tom Jones, a professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Rochester, just published on 07/15/97, in the Journal of Applied Physics, a paper entitled: "Simple Theory for the Levitron." In the paper, professor Jones confirms that a key distinguishing claim in the Hones patent, that you can't use a round base magnet, is unsupported, and that there is no real difference between the Levitron and what Roy invented: "The prediction of a stable locus for an axisymmetric geometry would seem to contradict one claim made in the patent by Hones and Hones, that levitation cannot be achieved with a base magnet having a periphery of circular shape. The present analysis, as well as that of Berry and Simon et al, offers clear evidence that axisymmetric magnetic fields should work fine. In fact, success in predicting stable levitation for axisymmetric fields suggests that there is no fundamental distinction between the Levitron and the much earlier scheme of Harrigan." This was an opinion, we note, that he arrived at through close readings of the original patents and a subsequent comparison of their claims to his own understanding of how the Levitron works - well before he contacted Martin Simon and learned about Roy.

And finally, we recently met with Sir Michael Berry, arguably one of the top physicists in the U.K., if not the world. Sir Michael has about 300 published papers to his credit, including one that all the other scientists cite as the first to decipher the actual physics of the Levitron. Professor Berry acknowledged that, as he was researching his paper, the Hones' never mentioned Roy Harrigan. But, after being contacted by Roy directly, and comparing the two patents, he now credits Harrigan in all his lectures as the "inventor" of the device. Unfortunately, Roy called Sir Michael too late to get the "correction" included in the published paper. But, one other correction did make it in. Berry confirmed that, just prior to his paper's publication by the British Royal Society, he received an eleventh-hour request from Ed Hones, insisting that he make but a single change: And so, at Ed Hones' behest, Berry changed the phrase "invented by Mr W Hones" to"developed by Mr W. Hones."

Over a month had passed since Bill agreed to "think about" making Roy some sort of settlement offer, and he had done absolutely nothing - except to go on vacation, and continue to take credit publicly for the Levitron's genesis. CLICK HERE to read a partial transcript of a recent appearance by Bill on QVC, one of the televised shopping networks. While we waited for Bill to do something, we added an introduction featuring Roy to our video, and began to credit him on this website. Also, Michael McBride put his "poster" on the Internet, and we put a link to it on our "How Does the Levitron work?" page. You can CLICK HERE to read the poster. It reveals the truth in even clearer terms than Martin Simon had. To call this whole situation "a controversy" would seem to be a misnomer!

We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting the Levitron and Bill Hones as its inventor. It has now become painfully clear to us that Bill Hones has been deceiving us from the beginning, and allowed us to unknowingly perpetrate a fraud. Therefore, we have decided that we cannot in good conscience continue to promote and sell Levitrons for Bill Hones. Consequently, we have suspended most of our business and posted this explanation. We will, of course, continue to honor all of our UFO guarantees, and provide any needed flight support as usual.

Meanwhile, Michael Vary's law firm - wouldn't you know it - turns out to be one of the largest "Intellectual Property" firms in the country. Michael is currently in the process of mounting a laundry list of charges against Bill Hones. Bill's attorney Saul Leitner, on the other hand, told us - albeit sarcastically - in our one phone conversation, that if we were so "concerned," then we should just "buy Levitrons from Roy Harrigan". And you know, that's exactly what we intend to do - just as soon as Mr. Harrigan can regain legal control over his incredible invention.

The question of what, if anything, Roy or Bill each deserves in any "final" settlement is, thankfully, not ours to decide. Feelings run the gamut, from Bill Hones - who thinks Roy deserves "something" but not enough to give him anything - to Roy Harrigan - who, understandably, also thinks Bill deserves zip. Michael Berry, even though he credits Roy as "the inventor" of spin-stabilized magnetic levitation, also thinks that Bill should get credit for being "the developer, who has enabled the public to appreciate and enjoy the Levitron."

One is tempted to use analogies to try to sort it all out: If somebody steals your car, then goes off and customizes it to their own specifications before you can recover it - do you owe them for their work? Or how about: "If a champion thoroughbred colt is spirited away, then trained into a winner, who gets the purse? Or: If young Oliver Twist is kidnapped, and raised by bandits, does "Fagin" deserve credit for keeping him healthy? Or: If Great Britain took Hong Kong from China in an immoral opium war, what credit do they deserve for Hong Kong's "development"? Alas, all analogies are - sadly - lacking.

Yet, in trying to evaluate what - if anything - Bill Hones might deserve for his "development" of the Levitron, another factor really needs to be taken into consideration: About half of the estimated one million Levitrons in existence today have been sold in Japan, and Bill Hones receives nothing for these sales. The reason, he told us once, was because he had traded away the Japanese rights early on... in exchange for "development"!

And that's where it rests for now. In one of the letters on our Feedback page (see bottom) the writer marvels that Bill "got away with it for such a long time before he was caught." Well, we'd like to clarify that Bill continues to sell Levitrons to this day, and Roy continues to get not a penny from him. And, as far as Bill being "caught" goes…

Sadly - if not predictably - Bill's only response to the issues raised in this report has been to commence proceedings to seize this website from us. We note that we started and built this website - with its attendant domain name - on our own initiative, using our own capital, and with Bill's prior knowledge and encouragement. CLICK HERE to see the letter from yet another of Bill Hones' lawyers that we were faxed four days after posting this page on this website. It appears to be a form letter, as neither the circumstances described, nor the specifics, apply to our situation. CLICK HERE to see our reply, sent directly to Bill Hones.

The most ironic part of Bill's lawyer's letter is where he maintains that our continued "...use of the domain name (in our website address) will cause confusion, mistake, and deception, and constitutes trademark infringement, unfair competition, and misappropriation." (!) We leave it up to the gentle reader to determine whether more "deception" will occur with us, or Bill Hones, controlling the "Levitron" domain name on the worldwide web.

But since the letter raises the issue of trademark, we feel obliged to point out that the name "Levitron" has been - in our mind - irrevocably linked to Roy Harrigan's invention. Indeed we ourselves, with our national advertising campaign, have had a large hand in this. And, it's quite obvious to us, that there can only be one Genuine Original Spin-Stabilized Permanent Magnet Levitating Top. Any solution that does not give Roy some claim to this name does not seem equitable. As we've discovered, there are other "Levitrons" - and better Levitrons - in the world besides the ones Bill Hones is now selling. And we intend to license the right to sell some or all of them from Roy.

Therefore, in order to "keep our shop open" we're announcing that we will continue to sell both our Instructional Video, and the reprint of the Michael Berry Science Paper. These two items are the only two products that we've been selling all along that Bill Hones doesn't sell. The video - "starring" Bill - features an added introduction by Roy, as well as a clip of Roy's working Levitron prototype. The videos are $10 delivered, and the Berry Science Papers are $5. And, we'll give a percentage of every sale to Roy Harrigan.

While this report may appear one-sided, these are the plain facts as we found them. If Bill Hones, or anyone else, has any information refuting anything on this page we would love to hear about it. As it is, we've reported here all the explanations that Bill Hones has ever given us - in totality.

Okay, so what can you do? Originally, we suggested that people not buy Levitrons, anywhere, until "this situation is resolved." But we've since realized that we - personally - don't really want to be "against" anything. Especially something as magical and uplifting as the Levitron. However, we do believe in taking action for the kind of world we prefer to live in, and shedding light on the facts as we find them to be.

So, if after reading all this, you still want to buy a Levitron from Bill Hones, his contact information is just below. Or, better yet, you might consider patronizing any other retailer who innocently bought Levitrons wholesale from Bill. And, when you buy your top, let them know of the existence of this website so that they may consider this information before restocking.

You can also contact Bill directly, and let him know what you think. His office number is 1 206 870 3000, his fax is 1 206 870-3004, or you can simply E-mail him by CLICKING HERE. You can also reach Roy Harrigan at 1 802 824-6977, or E-mail him by CLICKING HERE. Finally, you can reach us here at UFO by calling 1 800 275-2877, faxing 1 505 895-5508, or E-mailing by CLICKING HERE.

PS - Bill Hones' company also markets a few other "Toys by Physicists" - none of which is anywhere close to the Levitron. When we had an opportunity to point this out to Bill one day, he thought about it a moment, then smiled and admitted that something like the Levitron probably comes along only once in a lifetime.

Update 12/05/97

On September 24, 1997, Bill Hones filed a lawsuit against us in Federal District court in Albuquerque, New Mexico for - among other things - defamation in regards to this article. On November 3rd, 1997, Hones filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction to shut down this website.

Then, at a Court hearing on December 4, 1997, Mr. Hones offered us - among other things - $10,000 to pull this story and hand over our website. We refused. During the hearing, Mr. Hones was asked under oath for any explanation or answers he might have to the charges contained in this article, and, once again, Mr. Hones had no answers other than those we have already reported here. The Court subsequently denied Mr. Hones' Motion to seize this website, and thus you are able to read this now.

So, in keeping with our mandate here at "Levitron Central" to provide completely uncensored reportage and information about all things Levitron, we will continue to "update" this article as these legal events unfold. In the meantime, you can E-mail Mr. Hones by CLICKING HERE., and let him know what you think. Then, just check back here for regular updates on the Levitron legal action!

Update 3/23/98 Hones Speaks!

Twenty-seven months after we first asked Bill Hones for the story of the genesis of the Levitron, twelve months after we first asked him about Roy Harrigan, eight months after we flew to Seattle to ask him again in person, and three months after we asked him yet again, under oath, during an open hearing in Federal Court - Bill Hones has finally come out with a detailed explanation. Up until now, Hones has steadfastly refused to give any more explanation of exactly what he invented than we have reported here. (See the updated letters on our FEEDBACK PAGE.) But, in response to a motion by us to dismiss his charges of defamation resulting from this article, he has committed to a story.

As we have stated previously, we intend to report any significant information in regards to this report - especially whatever responses Bill Hones should choose to make. He has chosen his favorite form, the legal brief, but so be it. LINKED HERE then are excerpts from "PLAINTIFFS' MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGEMENT OF CERTAIN CLAIMS FILED ON 2/9/98," as well as all the relevant sections of a sworn "Affidavit" by Bill Hones. Also, accessible by CLICKING HERE is the Affidavit of Bill's father, Ed Hones, who has recently "come out of the closet." CLICK HERE to see a picture of Ed Hones. CLICK HERE to see an Affidavit from Saul Leitner, Bill's Attorney, also back out of the closet. And finally CLICK HERE to see the Affidavit of an "expert witness" - no less than a former commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, named Harry F. Manbeck - who was hired by Hones et al. to review the two patents. His impressive credits are attached.

Now, if you have been paying attention, you will note that the story that "the Plaintiffs" tell in these documents, is somewhat different than the story we've reported here that they have been telling up until now. And, needless to say, Mr. Harry Manbeck's analysis of the situation supports their contentions. Could it be that all the scientists were wrong? For now you must decide for yourself, and stay tuned for the next update!

But, in the meantime, you might care to check out Mr. Hones' new website by LINKING HERE. And, while you're at it, see if you can spot the newly-added reference to Harrigan! After maintaining for four years that he invented spin-stabilized permanent magnet levitation, Bill Hones has now started crediting Roy Harrigan with this discovery.

Oh, and you might also want to CLICK HERE to read a transcript (hold on to your hats) of part of the only face-to-face meeting between Hones and Harrigan! Yes, it turns out that Roy VIDEOTAPED their 2-day meeting! This transcript was provided to Bill by Roy's lawyer, and then submitted in Court as evidence by Bill! Could there be a more surprising development? Well, like we said, stay tuned!

Update 3/28/98 Hones Speaks II!

For years, Bill Hones has claimed that his innovation was the idea of spinning one magnet over another. Then, after the scientists discovered otherwise, Hones abruptly revised his story, claiming that his invention was a flat base-magnet. (When queried, Saul Leitner responded repeatedly: "Is the Levitron a dish-shaped magnet?") Now, in light of irrefutable evidence that Roy told Bill a flat base-magnet would work (see link above), Hones has again revised his story, claiming that his real brainstorm (or his father's) was the idea to magnetize the flat base-magnet in a certain way.

Shortly after Bill Hones filed the above-linked Affidavits as evidence for his claims, he sent us (as part of his "disclosure" requirements) an additional expert report which defines more clearly his new position regarding the differences between "his" invention - the Levitron - and Roy Harrigan's invention - which on the surface appears identical. CLICK HERE to read that new expert report. Not surprisingly, Roy Harrigan maintains that Hones and Co. are blatantly misrepresenting his patent's claims in order to "spin" recent damning revelations. Could that be? Stay tuned for the next update!

Update: 4/26/98 - The Scientists Reply:

As part of our Levitron litigation, we also had the opportunity to submit our own "Expert Reports." So we asked three of the scientists named in this article to make whatever comments they cared to make regarding the Levitron situation in general, and the expert reports of Hones and Co. in particular. You can read their responses yourself and decide what you think. CLICK HERE to read the Expert Report of Martin Simon from UCLA. CLICK HERE to read the Expert Report of Michael McBride from Yale. And CLICK HERE to read the Expert Report of Tom Jones from the University of Rochester. Suffice it to say that, for the first time in the long and twisted tale of the Levitron, Bill Hones must now face his own spurious claims and contradictory statements "head on." What will be the result? Can Mr. Hones possibly transmute his crumbling reality? Stay tuned!

Update 11/24/98 - The Sherlock Hones Case

When we posted the first installment of this article fifteen months ago, we could not have imagined that it would still be continuing today. Because the evidence for duplicity and fraud was so well documented, we felt that it was only the addition of public scrutiny that was needed to assist Bill Hones in resolving the situation. However, it seems that we severely underestimated the depths of Mr. Hones' self-denial, and the lengths to which he is willing to go to perpetuate his business monopoly and suppress the truth.

In our particular instance, this included a heavily-funded "mad dog" legal assault of such a nature that it successfully preoccupied our lives for over a year. After being economically blind-sided by Hones, we found ourselves forced by financial circumstances to defend ourselves pro se - that is, without benefit of an attorney. Having backgrounds in writing and business, we rose to the challenge and held our ground. Finally, in August 1998, we were at last able to secure counsel, but not before suffering some legal damage at the hands of Hones' legions of lawyers.

This, in spite of the continuing discovery of even more damning evidence against the validity of the Hones Patent. For instance, you can CLICK HERE to see the second publication of a design for a flat-based levitron, which occurred in May 1993, or about nine months before Hones filed for his flat-based Levitron Patent. This publication, along with the "Magnets In Your Future" magazine linked above, is alone enough to invalidate the Hones Patent. Both of these articles derived from the same prototype, built by AZ Industries, but based on yet a third "prior art" publication, some plans reportedly sold through Popular Science magazine in the late 80's. These plans - amazingly - not only feature a levitron with a flat base, but one that is square as well. CLICK HERE to see the first page of these plans. Repeated attempts to locate the alleged author of these plans - a Pennsylvania man named Joseph Chieffo - have been unsuccessful. Mr. Chieffo, if you're out there, we'd like to hear from you. Again, note that all three of these examples predate the application for the Hones patent, but postdate Harrigan's patent by several years.

Essentially, Bill Hones' current legal claims against us amount to three charges. The first is "defamation," stemming from this article. The second is "interference with prospective contractual relations," resulting from the Art Bell network's decision not to carry any levitron advertising until the legalities are resolved. The third is "trademark infringement," which boils down to our right to continue our use of the word levitron, most centrally in our domain name address that hosts this website. Given Hones' complete unwillingness to communicate with us, other than through his attorneys, our first opportunity in nearly a year to talk with him "face-to-face" occurred during our three-day depositions, which we underwent without representation by counsel. We answered every question asked by Hones' Washington D.C. lawyer, with the single exception of those concerning our plans to market competing spin-stabilized permanent magnet levitating tops. As it happens, this proved to be almost all Bill Hones was ultimately interested in.

Forty days and forty nights after our deposition at the hands of Hones, we ourselves had our first opportunity to question Hones, directly and at length, about every single issue mentioned in this article, and more. It was, for us, a revelation. Hones stubbornly refused to admit that he ever did one single thing wrong, or that Roy Harrigan deserved one tiny bit of credit or one red cent of compensation from him. He evidently learned this attitude from his father, Ed, who flatly refused to acknowledge any possibility of error in his calculations, and even arrogantly suggested that the learned scientists quoted herein should read a book entitled, "Patent It Yourself."

Additionally, as part of the "discovery" process, Hones was compelled to release hundreds of pages of evidentiary documents, a surprising number of which pointedly contradicted his own testimony. However, nowhere in this material, or in the 854 pages of Hones' sworn deposition (all but seventeen pages of which he has attempted to designate confidential) is there one piece of evidence that contradicts a single material fact which we have documented here. And, perhaps more pointedly, when Bill Hones was confronted with his own misrepresentations, Hones resorted to his old standby and simply denied the obvious. Surely, if Mr. Hones believed his own expert reports, he would not have to resort to such mendacity.

Now, one might suppose that when faced with the overwhelming evidence of one's own misrepresentations and fabrications in a legal forum, even a pathologically unreasonable person would admit that "mistakes were made" - as the Watergate Nixon said. Unfortunately, the ego and pride attendant to Bill Hones' red-handed public exposure here has apparently precipitated a psychological log-jam that only recently received a jolt from the release of the Roy Harrigan videotapes, which document almost all of Roy and Bill's initial meetings. These videotapes, recorded by Roy as a prescient precaution, effectively drive the final nail into the coffin of the Hones' Legend of the Levitron.

Hones had desperately tried to get access to these tapes prior to his sworn deposition, but ultimately had to resort to a subpoena of Harrigan's attorney, and a subsequent review by the Court, before Hones could get his hands on them. Harrigan protested the release of these tapes, based on his realization that Hones and Co. have attempted to "spin" every piece of documentation connected to this affair. But our recent viewing of this material verifies for us that Mr. Harrigan's fears were unfounded. There, in several hours of meetings commemorated on the tapes, Harrigan clearly reveals to Hones all the "Secrets of the Levitron," as well as many more specific ideas not contained in the Harrigan Patent, but expressly manifest in the Hones device, as well as in a number of Hones' other Levitron Products. If there was ever any lingering doubt of Bill Hones' true debt to Roy, or of Bill's disregard for the intellectual property rights of others, this videotape ends the debate. You can CLICK HERE to read excerpts from the transcript of the original Harrigan/Hones meetings, and see for yourself what happened.

Now, to be clear, none of the issues in our present lawsuit will legally settle the question of the validity of the Hones Patent, and/or Hones' misappropriation of confidential trade secret information from Roy Harrigan. These matters can rightfully be addressed only in a "Harrigan/Hones" lawsuit, which - as of this date - has not yet been filed. And, as for the status of that lawsuit, and also the status of the long-awaited "Harrigan Levitrons" - stay tuned!

Update 12/02/98 - More Levitron Legalities

Among the volume of supporting evidence which we have compiled in our investigation - which space prohibits us from posting most of here - is a legal analysis of the Hones Patent in light of just two of the (count 'em) four prior art references documented above. If you've been craving a legal opinion on this particular topic, you can CLICK HERE to read it.

Update - 12/7/98 Patent Analysis Footnote

As an addendum to the legal opinion linked above, we note that the very first Claim of the Hones patent - which describes a base having a"polygonal periphery and a substantially planar first surface" - is encompassed by Claim 12 of the Harrigan Patent, which describes an arrangement where the base "comprises at least three discrete magnets disposed about said first axis, each said discrete magnets being disposed with the axis thereof inclined at the same angle to said first axis, with the same radial angle there between." The legal language aside, what Harrigan discloses here is that a polygonal arrangement of separate magnets can be utilized as a base. You may CLICK HERE to see a photo of a levitron base prototype that Martin Simon constructed to test this scheme. It worked. And not only is a circle, technically, an infinite polygon with a "polygonal periphery," but the tops of the array of cylindrical magnets can, indeed, define a "substantially planar first surface."

Update - 2/8/99 An Art Bell Mystery

In response to several inquiries, we need to note that the ads for the levitron, and an instructional video, that reappeared on Art Bell's Dreamland radio show around the holidays, were not us. It would be natural to assume otherwise, since it was UFO who advertised the levitron, along with our "exclusive" instructional video, on Bell's show continuously for over a year. After we suspended our advertising, Bell's network stated that they would not accept any levitron advertising until "the legal issues are resolved."

Well, since the legal issues are definitely not resolved, and since we always respected Art Bell's integrity, we have absolutely no idea why he and his network have reversed their previous decision. Nevertheless, we support both Bell's and his network's right to refuse (or accept) advertising from anyone they choose, any time they choose. The first time Hones tried to advertise, it was the network's courtesy phone call to us that precipitated the legal claim of "interference" against us by Hones. This time, they didn't call.

Update 4/2/99 More Independent Verification

Recently we were contacted by someone we previously had no knowledge of -- a just-retired professor of mathematics from the University of Rhode Island named Rod Driver. Professor Driver was among the many scientists trying to understand the workings of the Levitron shortly after its commercial appearance. In this regard, he contacted both Bill and Ed Hones in early 1995 - about a year before we ever met either of them. He spent about thirty minutes on the phone with Bill, and another twenty with Ed, asking them in detail about the Levitron and how they had come to invent it. He even faxed Bill some basic information about Earnshaw's theorem after Bill seemed unaware of it. As Professor Driver recounts, during these conversations neither Bill nor Ed Hones gave the slightest indication that they had learned about spinning the magnet from someone else -- and they certainly didn't mention Roy Harrigan.

After belatedly learning of the existence of Harrigan's work, Professor Driver contacted Bill Hones to inquire of him why he had never mentioned Harrigan in their prior conversations. Bill's disingenuous response prompted Professor Driver to go visit Harrigan personally. After meeting with Roy, Professor Driver again contacted Hones. Considering what the professor found, it is not surprising to us that Bill Hones has yet to reply to the professor's last correspondence. You may CLICK HERE to read for yourself these revealing emails.

In them, Professor Driver not only verifies "the big lie" that Bill Hones was telling long before he ever told it to us, the professor also verifies Ed Hones' callous complicity, as well as the damning contents of the Harrigan / Hones meeting tape.

Update 4/21/99 - Another Puzzle Piece Appears

As we continue to actively investigate and report on the Hidden History of the Levitron, individuals with missing pieces of the puzzle continue to find us. The latest of these is a retired NASA scientist from Alabama named Jerry Johnson. It seems that Mr. Johnson is a longtime reader of Popular Science magazine and, in the December 1988 issue, he spotted a small classified ad offering for sale - for $5 - plans to build a levitron. CLICK HERE to see that 12/88 "Popular Science" ad. We note that this was about5 1/2 years after the Harrigan Patent issued, but almost 6 1/2 years before the Hones Patent.

Mr. Johnson not only ordered these "Levitator" plans (the first page of which is already linked to this article) he also ordered some parts that were offered, and constructed from them his own square, flat-based levitron. It was Mr. Johnson who, on a family vacation shortly thereafter, passed through Arkansas and happened across Les and Harley Adam and their magnet company, AZ Industries. He showed them his levitron, and Harley Adam - after seeing it, but before seeing Chieffo's plans - built a levitron of his own design. It was Harley's levitron which was subsequently featured on the June, 1991 cover of "Magnets In Your Future" magazine, and also in the May, 1993 "Electric Spacecraft Journal" - both of which are also linked above.

Realizing the scientific breakthrough that the device represented, Mr. Johnson wrote to the supplier of the plans and parts - a company called "Magneflight" - inquiring how the invention came to be. CLICK HERE to read Mr. Johnson's letter, dated February 23, 1989. Within a few weeks, he received a handwritten response from the elusive "Joseph Chieffo" (also referred to above) which letter Mr. Johnson has had in his own files since his receipt of it in March of 1989. CLICK HERE to read it. In this letter, Mr. Chieffo explains how he "came upon this discovery" noting that it was "largely a matter of intuition, observation, and obsession." But then, Chieffo adds, in a (now) dramatic qualification: "Finally, I feel that I should inform you that, while my discovery is genuine, it is not wholly unique. I have learned that a Mr. Harrigan of Connecticut has done extensive work along these lines."

About a year after receiving the letter from Joseph Chieffo, Mr. Johnson attempted to contact him again, to inquire why his classified ad had disappeared after only one month, and also to ask why he had evidently not pursued the commercialization of his device. Mr. Johnson also wanted to send Mr. Chieffo a check for the handful of copies of Mr. Chieffo's plans that he had made for persistent friends. But Mr. Johnson's mailing to the Magneflight address came back marked "Returned To Sender" for the reason "Attempted - Not Known." Numerous subsequent attempts to locate Mr. Joseph Chieffo have also proved fruitless... so far.

After his failed attempts to contact the Magneflight Company, Mr. Johnson constructed and sold "about fifty" of what his wife Barbara dubbed the "Mag-Neet-O". CLICK HERE to see one of Jerry Johnson's advertisements for the first commercial, low-cost, square, flat-base-magnetized-normal-to-its-surface levitron. By our count, this is now invalidating prior art #5 against the hapless Hones patent. And, it appears from the Chieffo letter that- although Chieffo does claim a "discovery" - he also seems to acknowledge that Harrigan got there first.

This could be a possible clue as to why Mr. Chieffo - apparently - abruptly abandoned his plans to market his own levitron. In another section of Chieffo's only letter to Mr. Johnson, Joseph Chieffo writes- rather ironically in view of what came after - "Seldom do I encounter someone who shares my appreciation for the simple beauty of the levitation phenomenon. Although, I must confess, with a measure of sadness, that my business ambitions with respect to the levitator have somewhat dimmed what was once an almost childlike fascination for 'defying' gravity. Ambition seems to corrupt one's vision."

Update 4/26/99 - Defamation Charge Against This Article Dropped!

On April 20, 1999 a Federal Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico granted Bill Hones' motion to amend his legal claims against us so as to eliminate six of his seven charges - including the charge that we defamed him in this article. Hones' laughable excuses for dropping these charges notwithstanding, the reality is that he had simply run out of bluffing room. Faced with our detailed documentation, extensive reference links, sworn verification by all of the quoted individuals, and an imminent trial - Mr. Hones has retreated to a single charge of trademark infringement. Needless to say, this charge is frivolous.

So, after nineteen months of perpetrating a heavily-funded and totally baseless legal assault against us, Bill Hones is still selling his fraudulent Levitrons, is still denying that he owes Roy Harrigan anything, and is still continuing in his attempts to misappropriate both our website and our Levitron business.

Finally, in the course of this motion, the "Art Bell Mystery" was solved when Bill Hones revealed that he had evidently misrepresented to Art Bell and/or his network that the legal issues regarding the inventorship of the Levitron, and UFO's rights to sell Levitrons, had been resolved - which, of course, they have not. And, although we have not communicated with Mr. Bell or his network about this, our impression of Art Bell is that he does not like to be lied to.

Update 5/30/99 - The Other Real Inventor

On May 21st 1999, a 44-year old chemical plant inspector - and part-time poet and inventor - who was new to the Internet, typed his name into a search engine. He was "floored" to discover that he had achieved a measure of fame via this article. His name was Joseph Chieffo, and now the full story of his invention, the first commercial levitron, can be told.

Joe Chieffo had been trying to levitate a permanent magnet since his early twenties. Then, in September, 1984 he had a brainstorm, and fashioned a top out of a ring magnet and a brass screw. Within an hour, he had his first successful levitron flight. Excited by his discovery, Chieffo asked his attorney to do a patent search. Inexplicably, Roy Harrigan's patent, issued in 1983, at first did not show up, so Chieffo began his own efforts to secure a patent and commercialize his invention. Only then did his lawyer call him back with the depressing news that his discovery had already - apparently - been patented by Harrigan. While there are notable differences between Chieffo's invention and Harrigan's - including a adjustable flat base which precluded the need to change washer weights - they were not enough, his attorney opined, to qualify for a new patent. As Chieffo puts it, "the spinning was the key."

However, Chieffo's spirits were lifted when his attorney added a surprising qualification. Though, his attorney advised him, Chieffo could not get a patent of his own, he could still - because of his invention's "non-dish" base magnet - lawfully market it without infringing on Harrigan. So, after some soul-searching over this somewhat oxymoronic legal advice, Chieffo decided to go ahead, and began approaching manufacturers about marketing his invention. Then, in 1988, frustrated by his lack of success at getting any manufacturer interested, he rented a P.O. Box and took out his own classified ads for his "Levitator" plans in both Popular Science and Popular Mechanics.

Almost immediately, he received a number of orders and one excited inquiry as to the origin of the invention. It was from Jerry Johnson. Crediting Harrigan in his response to Johnson (linked above) made Chieffo depressed again over his own also-ran status. But it was mostly the fact that his costs were eating up all of his profits, that caused Chieffo to give up the P.O. Box, and pull the Popular Science ad after only one month and the Popular Mechanics ad after two.

Then, one day in 1997, Chieffo's wife saw Bill Hones demonstrating "his" invention on QVC. Chieffo's response was to call Bill Hones' company, Fascinations, and inform Hones' sales manager that he was the real inventor of the levitron. Since Chieffo had never contacted Roy Harrigan or seen this article, he had no idea that the big levitron scandal was just breaking. In Hones' inimitable style, he never returned Chieffo's call. But Chieffo, emboldened, then went back to one of his manufacturing contacts, and tried to convince them to partner with him to challenge the invalid Hones Patent. Only - as we at UFO have also discovered - most companies are reluctant to risk a lawsuit, and they passed again. Then, Chieffo happened upon this article.

So now it seems we are faced with not one, but two "real" levitron inventors. And Bill and Ed Hones, who invented nothing, continue to "steal" the credit from both of them to this very day.


Photo of Bill Hones
Levitron Physics Paper By Martin Simon et al.
Frame from video of Harrigan's Levitron Prototype
Letter from Martin Simon to Bill Hones
Bill Hones' Attorney's reply to Simon's Letter - Part 1
Bill Hones' Attorney's reply to Simon's Letter - Part 2
Partial Transcript of Bill Hones' Appearance on the Laura Lee Radio Show
Harrigan Patent
Hones Patent
Photo of Roy Harrigan
Fax from UFO to Hones' Attorney Disputing Statements Made in His Reply to Simon
Levitron Prior Art #2 - Magnets In Your Future Magazine
Partial Transcript of Bill Hones' Appearance on the QVC Network
Levitron Science Poster By Michael McBride
Letter From Hones' Attorney to UFO Demanding Transfer of this Website
UFO's Reply to Bill Hones Regarding Ownership of this Website
Bill Hones' Email
Roy Harrigan's Email
UFO's Email
Hidden History Feedback Page Letters Update
Excerpt From Hones' Legal Brief and Affidavit of Bill Hones
Affidavit of Ed Hones
Photo of Ed Hones
Affidavit of Hones' Attorney
Hones' Expert Report #1 - Harry Manbeck
Hones' "Fascinations" Website
Excerpt From Harrigan/Hones Meeting Video Transcript
Hones' Expert Report #2 - Peter Manbeck
UFO's Expert Report #1 - Martin Simon
UFO's Expert Report #2 - Michael McBride
UFO's Expert Report #3 - Tom Jones
Levitron Prior Art #3 - Electric Spacecraft Journal Magazine
Levitron Prior Art #4 - Popular Science's "Levitator" Plans
Selected Excerpts From Harrigan/Hones Meeting Video Transcript
Legal Analysis of Hones Patent in Light of Two Prior Art References
Photo of Simon's levitron prototype made with Harrigan's "Claim 12" base configuration
Correspondence Between Rod Driver and Bill Hones
Popular Science Classified Ad for the "Magneflight" Levitron
Letter from Jerry Johnson to the Magneflight Co.
Letter from Magneflight's Joseph Chieffo to Jerry Johnson
Jerry Johnson's Display Ad for his "Mag-Neet-O" Levitron

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