The Super Soaker was very popular for so many years that it garnered The World’s Best Selling Toy title with almost $1 billion in sales. While Hasbro owns the Super Soaker and Nerf brand, these toys were invented by Lonnie Johnson. But did you know he was underpaid royalties for the toy and several other Nerf toys?
Lonnie Johnson, the engineer behind the “Super Soaker,” was awarded $72.9 million in a settlement with Hasbro for unpaid royalties. He sued the company in February 2013, and the settlement was made in November of that same year.
Who is Lonnie Johnson?
Loonie George Johnson was born on October 6, 1949, in Mobile, Alabama. His father was a World War II veteran who taught Johnson the basic principles of electricity at an early age. He enjoyed tinkering with things and eventually earned the nickname The Professor from the kids around the neighborhood he lived in. Johnson loved to experiment. He took apart his sister’s doll to find out what their eyes were made of. He also tried to make rocket fuel in a pan but almost burned down the family home.
By the time he was a teenager, he had attended an all-black school in Mobile. Johnson represented Williamson High School at a science fair in Alabama and was the only black student. This was a time when African Americans had little to no presence in the field of science. He won first place with the robot he made with compressed air.
In 1969, Johnson attended Tuskegee University and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He then completed a master’s in nuclear engineering by 1975. Before joining NASA, he worked for the US Air Force, where he was placed on the stealth bomber program. Today, Johnson holds more than 250 patents and was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal. (Source: Biography)
How Did Lonnie Johnson Invent the Super Soaker?
While Johnson was doing work for the US Air Force, he came up with the idea for the Super Soaker. Back then, it was initially called the Power Drencher. After a few tweaks and securing a trademark, the toy was remarketed as the Super Soaker we all know today. In 1991, the Super Soaker made $200 million in sales. (Source: Biography)
Johnson made a deal with the Larami Corporation. By February 1995, the corporation became a subsidiary of Hasbro. He continued to work on the design of the toy gun and improved the system by replacing the water with foam projectiles. By 1996 he received a US patent for his latest invention, the Nerf Gun. (Source: US Patent)
Legal Issues with Hasbro
In February 2013, Johnson filed a suit against Hasbro when he discovered that they were underpaying him for the royalties of the Super Soaker and several Nerf toys. Hasbro settled and paid him $72.9 million in royalties by November of the same year. (Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)