Saturday, 28th April, 2012
If you've ever nearly had your eye taken out by a carelessly wielded umbrella, you'll appreciate the ingenuity of this Kiwi product.
The sharp corners are gone. There's the special rib structure that keeps the canopy tight, ensuring the Blunt umbrella can withstand winds of more than 100km per hour.
Greig Brebner came up with the idea while travelling in the UK, and rolled it out several years later when he returned home to New Zealand to work at his family's plastics manufacturing company.
Now Madeblunt, the company he formed with business partner Scott Kington, has distribution partners for its 'pointless' umbrellas in Japan, Australia, the US, the UK, several European countries, Russia and Scandinavia.
Patent attorney Matt Devine was impressed from the moment he saw the first prototype. 'They've taken a pretty dull item and turned it into something sexy and revolutionary, and that takes some doing,' Devine says. 'The beauty of it is that people understand it straight away. That's good design. It works well and that makes people like it.'
'Greig and Scott both have that energy, passion and enthusiasm to get their ideas to market - that's so important. You can have a great product, but you still need that know-how and drive to get it market. Once people are excited about their ideas, they're excited about protecting them.'
Devine has been working with Madeblunt for the past five years, providing guidance on technology protection as the company applies for international patents and trade marks. Brebner says the timing and rollout of this IP protection have been crucial.
Without that IP protection, your company's not worth anything. AJ Park knows the systems around the world and they gave us really good advice.- Greig Brebner, Blunt Umbrellas
'They could break down our product, understand it and communicate what we had. There's more than one invention within the product and we couldn't afford to protect them all. It was all new to us, so having your hand held through the process was great.'
Developments like this are vital to Madeblunt's success, but the landscape is constantly changing, so any intellectual property protection in place needs to be relevant in five years' time and beyond, Devine says.
'You always need to revisit your initial strategy and make sure it's still aligned with where your brand, product and markets are now.'
The company's branding is another vital component of the business. Trade mark Partner Damon Butler is responsible for advising on and protecting Madeblunt's main brand and more recently, the stylised umbrella-style logo on the handle.
'They have a great product and their distinctive branding will help them stand out in the market,' Butler says. 'We've been looking at the different markets they're interested in and helping the company weigh up the cost benefits of protecting their branding in each market.'