Wednesday, 14th May, 2014

The sky's the limit

Paul Barmes’ new suitcase, designed around the concepts of 'live.work.move', is a premium product with a global market.

In the 2009 movie Up in the Air, George Clooney plays a seasoned business traveller who clocks up 350,000 air miles annually and has perfected the art of navigating airport check-in and immigration. But, if his character could see the latest invention by Kiwi entrepreneur Paul Barmes, all his dreams would come true.

Barmes, whose background is in commercial-furniture design, has created the ultimate premium travel bag. The Barmes Freebase is a unique combination of carry-on case, mobile office and leisure-gear storage designed to give greater freedom and mobility to business travellers on short-duration trips. It also complies with airlines' carry-on luggage specifications.

Paul Barmes says his goal was to improve the way people work and travel by creating one piece to cater to all a person's needs.

'It had to be a carry-on that made travel seamless, from customs checkpoints to meeting rooms, and from document storage to exercise gear,' he says.

The Freebase has separate, easily accessible compartments to store all the essential items needed for work, travel, entertainment and relaxation: travel documents, files, phone, laptop, chargers, and toiletries; with clothing and exercise gear stored in soft bags or zipped pockets.

Manufacture is set to begin in April, and Barmes has secured an exclusive Australian distributor, Living Edge, and also has keen interest from the US and elsewhere. In late 2013, he successfully launched the Freebase on the Kickstarter website, raising much-needed capital and receiving a universally positive response for his invention.

'We've been overwhelmed by the support and belief from those with an understanding of design, simplicity and function,' says Barmes.

Among those supporters are staff and management at intellectual property specialists AJ Park. Not only have they developed an IP strategy to protect Barmes' invention, but several have also independently supported the project through Kickstarter.

Patent attorney, Matt Devine, says AJ Park recognised the Freebase as something special from the start.

'Paul came to us with these beautiful concept drawings and several senior partners in the firm immediately asked 'when can we get our hands on one?' It's the sort of product you look at it and think: why has no one done this before? It's genius; you see it and you know it's just what you need.'

Devine says AJ Park has taken a very integrated approach in its work for Barmes.

'The branding and the patent and design protection for this product is so interwoven,' he explains. 'We initially looked at some of the product's features for patent protection, but we also protected the brand and the branding strategy so the whole package could be connected going forward.'

Barmes' meticulous planning made AJ Park's job significantly easier, they say.

'There are multiple timing considerations with intellectual property, patents and trade marks. Knowing the milestones Paul is aiming for helps us establish our timeframe and ensure we're doing things to fit his business plan.'

Devine has worked closely with Barmes and his team. It's a typical approach for AJ Park that Barmes has embraced.

'It's been an easy working relationship because we're all on the same wavelength. Paul trusts our advice, but isn't afraid to challenge us if he thinks something's not quite aligned with his strategy. We love this product and we love working with Paul. He's a genuinely nice guy who's extremely passionate about this project. We can't wait for the Barmes Freebase to hit the market so we can say that we backed it and are proud of what Paul has done.'

Paul Barmes is equally positive about his relationship with AJ Park.

Their enthusiasm has been amazing; they've been so encouraging and helpful. AJ Park leave no stone unturned. Their thoroughness has really impressed me. We filed the initial patent a year ago and recently came back to it, but there was nothing to change. We'd nailed it. It's good to have professionals like that on board.

- Paul Barmes

That bodes well for the future because Barmes says the Freebase is just the first of many similar products he wants to bring to market.

'Barmes Design won't just be about this case. It's a design-led company and the brand is really important. That's where AJ Park has been helpful in many different ways from registering names and getting patents. When you have something you believe is quite unique and different, protecting that intellectual property and registering your brand is your saving grace. You need to ensure you've got everything covered so you can go forward with confidence.'

Devine says AJ Park takes care to spend its clients' money wisely and strategically.

'As intellectual property specialists, our challenge is getting a good IP protection strategy in place that's aligned with our clients' other financial pressures,' he says. 'We're very conscious that every dollar they spend on IP protection is one they can't spend on design and manufacturing, so it's about getting that balance right.'

 

Written by Deirdre Coleman, an edited version of this case study was featured in issue #50 of Idealog. Photo courtesy of Tony Nyberg.