Clause 8 Podcast: How the PTAB Killed Molly Metz’s Patents

The copy writes itself: “Five-Time Woman World Jump Rope Champion Transforms Fitness Industry after Securing Patents.”  However, you’re unlikely to find a glowing profile of Molly Metz on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website anytime soon. That’s because, after the fitness industry embraced Molly’s invention as the gold standard for speed jump ropes, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the USPTO invalidated the claims of the patents based on prior art from 1978 and 1979. Professor Dennis Crouch of Patently-O called the PTAB decision “fairly questionable as applying hindsight bias in justifying the combination of prior references.”

In this episode of Clause 8, Eli Mazour is joined by Molly and her husband, Dirk Tomsin (pictured above), to tell their story. A serious car accident spurred Molly to invent the new type of jump rope. Thanks to patents that were awarded to her by the USPTO, Molly’s company – JumpNrope – started making the jump ropes completely in the United States and licensing the patents to various fitness companies that eagerly relied on her jump rope technology.

It should have been the perfect story that the USPTO could tout about how America’s economy benefited from a woman inventor taking advantage of the patent system. Instead, Rogue Fitness – the largest fitness distributor for CrossFit – challenged Molly’s patents at the PTAB. In the latest episode of Clause 8, Molly and Dirk talk about dealing with the aftermath of that and fighting for a better future for other inventors.

On the Rewarding Experience of Obtaining a Patent

  • “You just go into this process thinking wow, I’m going in for a patent…it’s a lengthy process. We got the first one in 2010. And knowing that you had that support and protection, even if your invention isn’t going to be big, it’s just a rewarding feeling. You just feel special. You have this ribbon and you’re an innovator, you’ve created something, and I thought that was cool. There’s obviously interest in your jump rope. People are seeing you using it. You’re going through this process of getting a patent. And through this process you actually see, wow, this is something, what I have is really new. And maybe it’s not the first jump rope in the world, but it’s the first [of] THAT jump rope in the world.”

How Patent Protection Transformed Her Company

  • “I had my company JumpNRope, but it was geared towards . . . working with kids in schools. I started to sell jump ropes when I got my patent in 2010, knowing I had protection, knowing this could be something that I could offer to the world.”

Decision to Manufacture the Jump Ropes in Colorado and Not China

  • “Over the last 12 years of doing business, I’ve had so many people come to me saying, ‘you’re wasting money, you’re spending so much money on parts being bought in America, you could probably go to China and spend less than half of what you’re spending here. Your profit margins could be better.’ And I said, ‘I don’t care.’”

When the Patent System Worked for Molly

  • “When I contacted [an infringing company] Again Faster, I said, ‘hey, you know, you’re infringing.’ And they said, ‘you’re right.’ And they stopped. And that was one of my first big companies I started doing business with. We would manufacture for them, do the pad printing, and then fulfill their [orders].”

When Things Started Going Rogue

  • “I reached out to Rogue and said, ‘rumor has it that you are interested in carrying my jump ropes.’ And he said ‘yes, I’ve been wanting to work with you [and] find out who you are. And I’m glad that you reached out – let’s do a deal.’ So we started talking about how the licensing deal was going to look, kind of going back and forth on if he was going to make them or if I was going to make them. And as that was going on, that conversation just sort of stopped. A couple of months go by and then Rogue Fitness comes out with their launch of their new rope and it was my technology. And so, I wrote to Bill, the owner of Rogue Fitness, and said ‘hey, I thought we were in negotiations.’ And his reply was ‘talk to my attorneys.’”

Reaction to Federal Circuit’s Rule 36 Judgment

  • “I was completely confused. Dirk and I flew out to DC for that hearing at the Federal Circuit, because again, going through the [inter partes review] IPR, getting their decision, and then our attorneys, everyone was just so confused. And we’re like, ‘okay, look, this appeal is what’s going to finish it all off, right?’ The Federal Circuit is going to actually see, we’ll call it the stupidity of this decision. So, we flew out, and like you said, this is my life’s work on the line. We’re gonna put all the good energy there. And our attorneys say, ‘okay, let’s wait six months now for their decision’ – to get that ruling two days later. Oh, man. I mean, it crushed me. I just [wanted] to find out what [a Rule 36 ruling] meant…they affirm? They don’t agree, they don’t disagree? And I’m thinking, how do they even know? It’s been two days. Did they look at it? Are they too busy? I mean, it’s just insulting.”

Impact on Women and Hopes for the Patent System

  • “I think [my story] will discourage other inventors. I don’t want it to… I want to be an advocate for innovation in our country. And I want to be an advocate for patents and for women business owners and for women to have patents. One day, we’ll be back there, when things get fixed. But as things stand now, I don’t think it’s wise to get a patent, especially if you’re going to have a commercial success. They first need to fix the problem before they push people into owning patents.”



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Join the Discussion

8 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Jen Wallace]
    Jen Wallace
    April 27, 2023 12:06 pm

    Hearing Molly an Dirk’s story in their own words (in the podcast at the top of the article) I am blown away.

    So well articulated, so intelligently, and logically (yet also simply) explained, so inspiring…

    Question: Are our competitors invalidating their own patents at the same rates as the US? What are the statistics?

    The AIA was only a gift to other countries who have long stolen patented US intellectual properties.

    The US is now in effect handing out free licenses by invalidating our own existing patents.

    Kathi Vidal, Congress People, and Senators:

    Please find some way to stop this ongoing damage, this pervasive, and insidious, ongoing weakening and self-sabotage of the US economy.

    After a decade of the AIA, now it is apparent to anyone paying attention that the AIA has long outlived its usefulness and is now only serving to cripple the US economy relative to other countries.

  • [Avatar for Prototyped]
    February 16, 2023 08:32 am

    We, my Son and I developed a working prototype thermos for keeping coffee, tea or any hot drink well above tepid temps. We then moved to design phase where we needed design CAD work done. The guy that came to a meeting agreed and would be happy to proceed if we only had much more money than we did. So with all of our efforts to build a pile of gold, we still fell short as the amount kept growing. Finally we stopped and asked if we could make payments.

    His answer was to say directly to us, No and we are going to run with your idea because we can”

    I have numerous ideas now that are just sitting in limbo, and that’s a shame. But I don’t stop the ideas from doing research on them, and I hope Mrs Metz doesn’t either

  • [Avatar for concerned]
    February 16, 2023 05:24 am


    Mr. Quinn said the same thing you did about my invention: It is a shame inventions that help people live a better life cannot receive patent protection.

    The sub prime ripoff did not stop until the United States almost fell off the financial cliff and it had to be (reluctantly) stopped by those gaming the system. On that critical Monday when it all was hanging out, the wife of the co-boss of Pimco asked if she could pull $200 cash from their ATM account. His reply “You tell me?” Talk about getting the message “insufficient funds!”

    The patent system is no different. Party on Garth until the gaming of the system has to be stopped, not that those gaming it want it to be stopped. Then all those involved in gaming the patent system will run around like they advocated for change all along. Nothing new under the Sun.

    I have met a lot of great people in patent cyberspace, people who actually care about the country over financial interest. It is not the money we leave our children, it is the country we leave them.

    Keep on trucking Curious. Hopefully, you will hear about our efforts to assist people with disabilities in the news. The team has big thoughts and the team is very talented and accomplished.

  • [Avatar for Curious]
    February 15, 2023 12:35 pm

    Mrs. Metz’s story, along with other stories regarding the patent system, makes me realize that I am the lucky one to never get my patent issued.
    This is consistent with one of my other observations over the years. Having a valuable patent is an invitation for your competitors to bleed you dry in the IPR process.

    One of the problems of IPRs is that if the patent owner wins, they get very little in return. The estoppel provisions are easily avoided. As such, by winning, all they get is an another opportunity to be IPR’d again and again and again until someone prevails.

    As you now recognize, it can be better to lose early in the process than to spend untold thousands (millions?) of dollars trying to defend your patent(s) and get next to nothing in return should you win.

    Some may argue that I shouldn’t recommend that inventors should given in to the moneyed interests by not pursuing patent protection because that is what they want. However, the moneyed interests have already won. I present my comments in the hope that someone who does have the power to change things sees how screwed up the system has become and uses that power for good — not evil. Sometimes, the problem needs to be publicized before it can be fixed.

    As to your particular invention, it my eyes it should be patentable based upon the language of 35 USC 101. Moreover, it is the kind of technology that we, as society, want to encourage more of. That being said, the arguments you hoped to prevail on were shot down years and years ago. I didn’t argue with you and B because I hoped you would lose. Rather, I commented the way I did because I wanted the Federal Circuit to address different/better arguments.

  • [Avatar for concerned]
    February 15, 2023 05:10 am


    Actually horse racing is the sport of kings, however, feel free to infringe on that statement, why not, it is the patent universe? LOL.

    BTW: Yesterday was the opening day to purchase tickets to Keeneland (horse) Race Track for their 2023 spring meet, which opening day is approximately two months later. Sales opened at 9am and every table for every day was sold out immediately within 5 minutes. I was lucky to get a table for one day, and it was not even a weekend date. It is nice to see a business that is hugely successful without gaming someone else or stealing from them.

    Your posts have been appreciated by me (deep down) as you tell people what they need to hear. I think B has respect for you as well as he uses you for feedback and measurement.

    Mrs. Metz’s story, along with other stories regarding the patent system, makes me realize that I am the lucky one to never get my patent issued, although I was told by the patent authorities that I met the law as written by Congress. And I did not get a Rule 36, a victory lap.

    I would extend to Mrs. Metz that I have found satisfaction in my discovery, despite the United States patent system, as her goal and mine was to help society, not to obtain a worthless piece of paper. A group of professionals (outside my company) is actively pushing my discovery to help people cope with their disability.

    We know what we accomplished and no one can steal that satisfaction from us.

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    February 14, 2023 07:25 pm

    Dear Director Vidal,

    Molly’s — a member of an under-represented class you claim to be fighting tooth and nail for — sad case is Exhibit 1 for the critical need for you to place a black-box warning on all issued patents you sign your name to.

    Something along the lines of:

    WARNING: Despite the grand promises and representations I’ve made you that appear above my signature, you need to know that (as unbelievable as it may sound) the PTAB — a separate arm of the very same Patent Office that just issued you this patent, has the right to eliminate your patent at any time during its term; merely at the request of one or more entities you may have never even heard of.

  • [Avatar for Model 101]
    Model 101
    February 14, 2023 02:38 pm

    Don’t give up!

  • [Avatar for Curious]
    February 14, 2023 02:18 pm

    As I have written many times. The US Patent system is the sport of kings. It is set up to protect the moneyed interests and is designed to crush small business owners like Molly Metz.

    And when I say the US Patent system, it is all-encompassing. It is the USPTO, the PTAB, the district courts, the Federal Circuit, Congress, and the Supreme Court. All have contributed to an environment in which I would hate to be a small business owner trying to enforce a patent.

    I think [my story] will discourage other inventors. I don’t want it to… I want to be an advocate for innovation in our country. And I want to be an advocate for patents and for women business owners and for women to have patents.
    I’m sorry Molly, but your story is just one of a long list of inventors who have been screwed by the US Patent System. Most US Patents aren’t worth the piece of paper they are printed on — unless you are one of the mega-companies of the world. In that situation, they don’t assert a single patent. They asserts dozens, hundreds, even thousands of patents. The system that allows for patents to be easily disposed at the PTAB or at the district court level cannot handle invalidating that many patents. Moreover, very few companies have the financial resources to invalidate that many patents. Consequently, these mega-corporations get the best of both worlds — their patents are safe while the patents of their much smaller competitors can be easily invalidated.

    When Congress enacted the AIA, I suspect many of them didn’t realize that they were giving a huge gift to patent infringers everywhere — especially the large corporations who can now infringe with impunity.