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  • Mac and iDevice Accessory Designer Mark Donohoe Gaining Momentum

    The Momentum Case with Fast-Loc technology makes putting on a metal case painless. No screws, and it pops on in moments, not minutes.*Photos courtesy of Gary Chrebet of Insight Images*

    Mark Donohoe loved the trackpad on his laptop, and immediately purchased three Magic Trackpads after Apple released them into the wild. However, Donohoe ran into a problem, he wasn’t nearly as productive on his Magic Trackpad as he was on his MacBook’s trackpad.

    He started looking for solutions. Bullettrain’s eXpress turned the Magic Trackpad and Apple keyboard into the bottom half of a laptop and adds a considerable amount of heft to the setup. So Mark set out and designed his own solution, the aTrackt! (Twelve South didn’t even announce their Magic Wand until ten days into Donohoe’s aTrackt! Kickstarter campaign).

    “This wasn’t something that was ever supposed to be sold, it was just something I wanted,” Donohoe said. “Nothing out there really did what I wanted, and changed the ergonomics too much.”

    Donohoe's aTrackt! Mk II, which features camera and VESA mounts for mounting on a tripod, swing arms and other mounting options.

    Donohoe is a software engineer by trade specializing in UI development and currently is a Senior Software Engineer at Crestron Electronics with no previous industrial design experience. In order to create the aTrack Donohoe threw himself into the design process.

    “The aTrack! was my first experience with CAD,” Donohoe said. “I threw myself into AutoCAD, taught myself SolidWorks, and even taught myself some things like Cinema 4D and Blender to get some nice animations out of it. When I say throw myself into it, I went straight to the factory with the work.”

    An early CAD drawing of the Momentum case done in SolidWorks. To the naked eye not much has changed from the early CAD drawings and renders.

    However, like most self-taught one-man-band operations a mentor of sorts wandered into the picture. Bill Wagner, an aerospace engineer and President of Wagner Industries, took him under his wing.

    “There’s a shop about a mile and half from my house, Wagner industries, and the owner Bill Wagner and I just kind of clicked,” Donohoe said. “He showed me the mistakes I was making in the drawings. It was essentially like having a crash course college education, in an accelerated time, with one-on-one teach from the professor.”

    The original aTrackt milled out of a solid piece of aluminum.

    The solution that emerged from Donohoe’s vision and Wagners tutelage was the aTrackt. A simple piece of machined aluminum with a divider that allows the user to keep their keyboard and trackpad next to each other without one drifting around on the desk. A few friends saw what he designed and requested copies of their own. Shortly after Donohoe launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising over $9,000 for the initial run of aTrackt and the aTrackt Go which featured a solid plate bottom. Donohoe launched the aTrackt Go Mk II 10 months after the Kickstarter campaign adding a camera mount for mounting on tripods, a VESA mount , and other mounting options.

    The moderate success of the aTrackt system led to Donohoe’s latest design venture, the Momentum iPhone case with Fast Loc technology.

    “While talking with a factory about another product they asked if I’d be interested in a case they designed,” Donohoe said. “After looking at the case, there were a lot of problems with it. It wasn’t compatible with a lot of cables or docks, blocked the iPhone signal and wasn’t compatible with my car kit. After looking at it I really like the hinge design, but pretty much everything else needed to be changed in some way or another. ”

    The Momentum Case housing an iPhone. The case, even with the metal design, doesn't affect cellular signal strength.

    Donohoe proposed the two team up, with Donohoe using his design and engineering abilities to improve the design around the main hinge (patented Fast-Loc technology). Five months of back and forth later Donohoe finished the final design of the Momentum iPhone case with Fast-Loc technology. Donohoe put together a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to pay for the initial production run of cases, with the modest goal of raising $8,000. Kickstarter approved the campaign on a Friday afternoon and by Saturday Donohoe had reached 25% of his funding goal.

    Then Kickstarter suspended the campaign.

    Donohoe still doesn’t know what rules he broke, but logging in Saturday night to upload a new video to the Momentum campaign page he found the campaign was suspended. The following message was in his inbox:

    We're writing to inform you that your project, Momentum Case for iPhone with Fast-Loc Technology, has been suspended by Kickstarter. All funding for the project has been stopped and all transactions have been canceled. We regret if there was confusion about how Kickstarter could be used, but this action is not reversible.
    “I wrote several times in a panic asking what happened, but they didn't reply at all to those emails," Donohoe said. "Even worse, it wasn't just the campaign, my entire account was suspended so I couldn't even reply to people asking what had happened to the project, which made me look bad in their eyes.”

    The only responses Donohoe received after numerous messages seeking an explanation from Kickstarter were the generic “We received your letter” responses. Then a week later his account was reactivated, he could access campaigns he backed, and respond to his backers, as well as resubmit the Momentum campaign. Which he did, and Kickstarter smacked Donohoe with a denial once again, but this time Kickstarter sent Donohoe an email notifying him of the denial.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your project with Kickstarter. We review projects to ensure they meet our Project Guidelines (Community Guidelines — Kickstarter), which define how Kickstarter can be used. They express our commitment to being a platform for projects in the creative arts.

    Unfortunately, this project does not meet our guidelines. This isn't a judgment on the quality of this project, just a reflection of our focus. We wish you the best as you continue to pursue this endeavor. If you have future projects that meet our focus, we hope you'll consider Kickstarter again.


    Kickstarter did mention Donohoe could appeal the decision, but they declined the appeal as well. Donohoe still hasn't received a response detailing the specific Kickstarter guidelines he violated, and as result jumped ship to Indiegogo.

    “We think they thought we were trying to sell existing inventory, which cracked me up because we didn’t have the final prototypes at the time, all we had were renders and handmade prototypes, but we don’t know exactly because they haven’t told us anything.”

    However, Indiegogo’s audience and followers are decidedly less tech-friendly than the Kickstarter community. As a result the Indiegogo campaign has had trouble gaining traction raising less in 10 days than what Donohoe raised in 26 hours on Kickstarter.

    Despite the poor communication Donohoe plans to use Kickstarter for upcoming projects, including an interesting solution for iPad owners sick of scratching up the back of their iPad when setting it down, but who hate bulky cases and plastic/rubber shields. The solution is PadRails, which is simply two plastic strips placed on the back of the iPad (or any tablet) that elevate it off of the surface it’s resting on.

    The PadRails fixed to the back of an iPad. Donohoe worked directly with 3M to produce an adhesive that would secure the rails, but not leave a sticky residue if the user decided to remove them once applied.

    “When I’m out and about with my iPad whether it's a restaurant or a concrete park bench I hate putting it down, I’m always worried that the back is going to get scratched,” Donohoe said. “So I came up with Pad Rails.”

    Other solutions like InvisibleShield’s iPad back protection solutions utilize plastic rubbery feeling films that change the feel of the iPad. With the Pad Rails the brushed aluminum matte finish is preserved both in look and feel, while adding a slight extruded edge for users to latch onto while carrying their iPad.

    The Pad Rails Kickstarter campaign is gearing up, the Momentum case is nearing production, and even with the crowd-funding headaches still fresh on his frontal lobes Donohoe's passion hasn't subsided. Mark Donohoe isn’t a life long industrial designer like Scott Wilson of LunaTik. His KickStarter campaigns haven’t raised millions upon millions of crowdfunded dollars like the Pebble: E-Paper Watch (although its creator Eric Migicovsky is an aTrackt! user). But, what Mark lacks in resources, and crowd-funding luck, he makes up with passion and perseverance.

    “My background is software engineering and architecture, and the hardware side is something new, but I’m having so much fun," Donohoe said. "It’s pretty cool having something that was one just in your mind be in your hand, and it’s even better to see people using your creations. People have the choice of using anything and they choose yours. There's nothing really like it."

    Look for a Momentum review in the coming weeks, along with a couple extremely special giveaways including limited edition Momentum cases with the ModMyi logo laser engraved onto the case.

    Until then you can support Donohoe's Momentum case at Indiegogo, and visit his website InertialDesign for more information on the aTrackt! and aTrackt! Go.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Mac and iDevice Accessory Designer Mark Donohoe Gaining Momentum started by Phillip Swanson View original post
    Comments 22 Comments
    1. MarqueIV's Avatar
      MarqueIV -
      Quote Originally Posted by billdoe View Post
      Clearly a copy of Graft Concepts case. No wonder kickstarter suspended his project. Might as well just get an FiiO - X-PROTECTOR . This momentum case seems like a copy of a copy. Bummer.
      Hi! This is Mark, the creator of The Momentum. Actually, things aren't always as they first appear. The first thing to clear up is my factory holds the patent on the design with the hinge, and they have provided us with a copy of the patent backing that statement up.

      As for the X-Protector, Fiio is simply a reseller of an earlier version of the case which the factory had attempted to market.

      As for how we came into the fold, while working with that factory on another product, knowing we were focusing on products for Apple, they approached us and asked if we too would like to become a reseller for the X-Protector. But when I looked at its design, there were too many issues with it which kept me from wanting to associate it with my company.

      But I liked the concept and offered to work with them to refine it into something better, and they agreed, so over the next several months we created several iterations of the design until we came up with something I was proud to associate with Inertial, and the end result is what you see here, The Momentum. It addresses all of the fatal flaws of the X-Protector. You can see this by purchasing one of theirs (or just looking closely at its design in photos), then The Momentum and you will see vast improvements in the latter in usability, comfort, signal loss and overall quality.

      As for Graft's Leverage, we actually didn't find out about them until *after* we had already launched on Kickstarter. As soon as we did, I personally reached out to the principles at Graft by both phone and email (copies of which were kept for legal reasons) and attempted to address the issue head-on. We even notified Kickstarter directly of Graft ourselves. And of course, we immediately contacted the factory and asked them for clarification because they were so similar in design.

      As soon as we contacted the factory about this issue, they immediately provided us a copy of a valid, issued patent for the design.

      With this new information, I reached back out to Graft asking them to comment.

      More importantly, even though I had the factory's patent in-hand backing up their claim of ownership, out of respect from one start-up to another, I still made the offer to Graft's owners that if they too had filed for a patent prior to our launch, even if it wouldn't hold up against the factory's patent, we, Inertial, would immediately halt production of The Momentum without challenging it. That's just not who we are. I even explained to Graft I know how difficult it is being a start-up, and offered to team up--again patent unseen--to work together to resolve this.

      However, Graft declined our offer to work together. Still, I again made the offer if they could provide any proof there may be an issue with the factory's claims that the design was theirs, not Grafts, anything at all, again, we would halt production. I even halted the production at the factory while this was happening, at our expense (factories don't like when you hold up their production lines) to give Graft a chance to reply.

      However, to this day they have still not replied back.

      Considering the factory has provided a valid, issued patent, and Graft hasn't even replied, let alone provided notice one had even been filed, let alone issued, this leads me to believe that the design is owned by the factory as claimed. For all we know, perhaps the factory approached Graft before us, and that led to the competing designs, but that's pure speculation and again, Graft still has not responded so there's no way we can know for sure.

      What I do know however is the law dictates if you don't actively defend your IP, especially when challenged, then you risk losing protection, so we can't think of any reason Graft would choose simply not to reply if they were protected and we notified them directly, several times of our design and were moving forward, especially when we offered to halt if they had provided any proof of protection from their side, no legal challenge needed.

      Additionally, it is illegal for a company or entity to claim patent protection when they have not filed for such protection. Not only can they be fined by the government for making such false claims, but it opens them up to being sued for a declaratory judgment and possibly damages should such statements affect the business who has legal right to use such a patent.

      To be clear, to this date, Graft has not once claimed to us they have even filed for, let alone been issued a patent for the hinge design, even in a provisional status.

      For the record, copies of all of the exchanges between Graft, myself and the factory and of course the patent itself have all been kept for legal reasons, should we need them.

      That said, the offer to Graft still stands. Graft, if you are reading this, again, if you can provide any proof whatsoever that a patent for the design was filed before we launched, regardless of the existence of the patent I have a copy of, we will gladly halt future production of The Momentum. My brand is more valuable than a simple case and as such, I wouldn't risk it over something like this. We're both start-ups. But again, we can't simply walk away without some kind of proof, and to this day, the factory, not you are the only ones who have provided anything legal so that's what we have to stand by.

      Hope this clears things up.

      Inertial Design, Inc.
    1. soidroidios's Avatar
      soidroidios -
      Quote Originally Posted by BenderRodriguez View Post
      It looks nice but the issue is the Aluminum because it KILLS carrier signal, it connects the bands at the top that apple put a cut in, even if the case has rubber to prevent this in certain areas the case touches the phone in other area making it short out

      that case also won't fit my car charger/stereo because they made it to fit flush with the connector
      It does say that the case does not affect signal quality right? Is there little confidence to believe such a claim?