YoYo Wiki

Duncan Toys is a yo-yo company that makes a line of professional grade yo-yos like the Freehand series. They also produce a line of classic yo-yos such as the Imperial and the Butterfly. The company was named after the founder Donald F. Duncan, but the company is now owned by Flambeau Inc after a bankruptcy in the 1960's in which the goodwill and products were sold to Flambeau and the equipment to Strombecker Toys. Flambeau is owned by Nordic Industries.

For a long time Duncan had maintained the word "yo-yo" as a trademark, which led to their marketing slogan "If it isn't a Duncan, it isn't a yo-yo".

In 1962, Duncan sued Royal and Dell over the use of the word yo-yo. The latter company stopped the production of their yo-yos, and a three-year court battle between Duncan and Royal started regarding the trademarked word. The Supreme Court put the word "yo-yo" in the public domain, stating that the well-known Duncan slogan defined the name of the toy as a "yo-yo". This long, costly court battle led to Duncan filing bankruptcy, leading up to the buy-out by Flambeau. This landmark decision is is still referenced in copyright court cases to this day.

Duncan Professionals[]

Duncan Professional (not to be confused for the yo-yo) is the title most often associated with yo-yo demonstrators who are making a living demonstrating for Duncan. Duncan Professionals have been at the core of most of the Duncan yo-yo promotions it had done in its over 80-year history. Some of the most well-known yo-yo companies in the industry have been started by previous Duncan Professionals and now compete directly with Duncan (e.g. Russell, SuperYo, and Spintastics). The Duncan Professional is an icon in the yo-yo industry.

Notable One-time Duncan Professionals[]

Steve Brown and Freehand[]

National Yo-yo Master and former Duncan demonstrator Steve Brown is a marketing expert and yo-yo designer working for Duncan from a period of late 1999 to early 2006. During this time, Steve developed and patented the Freehand (5A) playing style. The patent (patent number 6,371,824), which only covers the USA and Germany, was owned by Duncan and Steve receives a 1.5% royalty for it. Some other companies would pay Duncan the licensing fee to sell yoyos with counterweights packaged with them. There were also a number of legal situations with other yo-yo companies marketing 5A. The 20 year patent expired on April 28 2020.

Legal Threats[]

Duncan letter

Nordic Industries' letter

Yoyowiki response

Josh's response

In March 2007, Nordic Industries sent letters to a number of prominent yo-yo sites (including the yo-yo wiki) and at least four yo-yo stores objecting to the usage of the terms "Freehand", "Imperial" and "Butterfly". The yo-yo community reaction was overwhelmingly negative, with a number of people parodying the "Duncan = Love" slogan with the alternative "Duncan = Lawsuit". Duncan later sent a letter, which conceded that Freehand is not a trademark in the USA although says little else.

As Duncan's letter did not comment on the usage of the other trademarks, Wilfred sent to following email to Duncan and received a response 7 weeks later.

Wilfred email

Wilfred's email

Duncan letter

Duncan's response

The question as to whether the yo-yo community at large actually changes the terminology it uses remains to be seen. Greg Cohen, another recipient of these letters was simply asked to use a © after the words Duncan claims trademarks of. Jaco Greeff also received a letter and responded by taking his store down, although it seems to be back up. As the letters were not true cease and desist letters the chances of any actual legal proceedings seems low.

Yo-Yos Produced[]

Vintage and Unpromoted Lines[]

Wooden & Vintage[]

Fixed Axle[]

Hardcore series[]

"A Fistful of Fury" - Advertising slogan.

De-Luxxe series[]

Screaming Eagle series[]


External Links[]