Zen Magnets Continues to Find Positives and Negatives in Challenging the Feds

Shihan Qu
Shihan Qu
Anthony Camera

Denver-based Zen Magnets, founded in 2009 by University of Colorado grad Shihan Qu, has been waging an unusual battle against the federal government -- and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in particular -- over the past two years.

The subject of our October 9, 2014, cover story, "Magnetic Attraction," by Melanie Asmar, the company sells tiny, high-powered spherical magnets that can be used to build everything from complex geometric shapes to replicas of cartoon characters.

See also: Videos: What Are Zen Magnets and Why Is the Federal Government Banning Them?

The magnets can be used to create complicated little sculptures.
The magnets can be used to create complicated little sculptures.
Anthony Camera

But the CPSC has determined that the magnets are dangerous. Though they are meant for adults, kids have gotten ahold of them and swallowed them, which can cause devastating bowel injuries when the magnets attract each other inside of their digestive tracts. As a result, the CPSC first tried to get magnet companies to stop selling them voluntarily. When that didn't work, it went after them on two fronts: a lawsuit and a ban.

Some fought back, but as of now, Zen -- and Qu, who is leading his company's quirky, irreverent campaign against the ban -- is the only one left.

The ban doesn't take full effect until April, so Zen is using that time to attack the CPSC on every front in an effort to save the business.

The most recent volley was a four-minute YouTube video titled "The Epidemiology Elephant in the Room," which was aimed at the science that the agency is using. It gained more than 200,000 views within 24 hours of being published on November 17.

In the meantime, Zen reports that an administrative-law judge in a lawsuit between the CPSC and Zen has denied two of the company's four motions.

One was a motion to dismiss, "where we argue that the constitutional right to due process was violated, since the commissioners are the appellant body and have already pre-judged specific facts regarding the case through public statements and by voting to ban magnets," Zen says.

A trial is scheduled to begin in December. Have a tip? Send it to editorial@westword.com


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