Lonnie Johnson, the brilliant black doctor, scientist, inventor and entrepreneur who created the wildly popular Super Soaker toy gun, was awarded $72.9 million in unpaid royalties from Hasbro Inc., according to the law firm King & Spalding.
Johnson’s company, Johnson Research and Development, filed a lawsuit against Hasbro for underpaid royalties in the sales of the water gun, according media reports. He was awarded everything he asked for during the arbitration hearing.
Johnson founded the Super Soaker water gun in 1989 and in the first two years cleared more than $200 million in retail sales two years later, the company said. The toy was licensed to Larami Corp., which was later purchased by Hasbro.
The arbitration agreement resolves a 2001 inventors dispute in which Hasbro agreed to pay Johnson royalties for products covered by his Nerf line of toys, specifically the N-Strike and Dart Tag brands, King & Spalding attorney Ben Easterlin said. Hasbro was nailed legally for not living up to that agreement. In fact, Hasbro tried to swindle Johnson in another devious way.
In a separate breach of contract suit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta in February, Johnson accuses Hasbro of violating a 1996 agreement to pay him Super Soaker royalties of 2 percent for “three-dimensional products” based on the appearance of the toy and 1 percent for “two-dimensional visual representations.”
But Hasbro sold water guns that were “visually similar and based upon the appearance of Super Soaker water guns that incorporate Johnson’s technology” without giving Johnson his cut of the profits. Johnson also wanted the court to force Hasbro to open its books to determine sales of Super Soaker products from 2006 to 20012.
Johnson’s genius is legendary. He is a nuclear engineer, a Tuskegee University Ph.D. and a former NASA scientist in addition to being the founder of Johnson Research and Development.
Johnson boasts more than 80 patents, with more than 20 pending, the company said, and the sales of the Super Soaker have approached nearly $1 billion. His inventions have included rechargeable battery technology and thermodynamic energy conversion technology.