Protecting a Brand Built for Success

Background


The c-fury Yacht model (Photo: MakMarine)

In 2005, Simon McLoughlin and his brother Andrew were looking for the perfect, small power boat. They wanted something that was exciting and fun, yet suitable for their young families. Prerequisites included the high performance and fun of a personal watercraft (“PWC”), the ease of transport of a typical small rigid inflatable boat (“RIB”) but without the associated cramped space and rough ride, and something that was safe, stable and suitable for the whole family. In addition, the boat they were looking for could not just be another “boys’ toy” but had to be easy to control and fit a variety of uses while being affordable and fuel efficient.

The McLoughlin brothers quickly realized that while their design brief was short, it was very demanding and there was no such boat in existence. Undeterred, they decided to design their own boat, and the concept of the “family watercraft” was born. Together with their father and a colleague in finance, the brothers formed MakMarine to explore opportunities in this apparent market gap and to write the design spec for a family power boat.

Research and development

With previous experience in engineering, Simon McLoughlin knew what he wanted: something that was fast and efficient, comfortable and handled well. Knowing what you want does not make implementation any easier, and the McLoughlins quickly found out that their conflicting requirements for their ideal power boat proved difficult to achieve. From the start it was clear that a different approach to hull design was required. A single one threw up too much water, a catamaran with a hydrofoil worked beautifully until you went faster than 30 knots, and the inventor of the multihull told them that it would never work on such a small craft. Not content to listen to the naysayers, the brothers went to work designing a boat that would meet their requirements.


The c-fury Storm model (Photo: MakMarine)

The McLoughlins persevered and, after four years of engineering and development, made a breakthrough when they developed a novel multihull system which included their own stabilizer and control systems. Surpassing all expectations, their unique invention allows a power boat to deliver efficiency increases of up to 40% over typical monohulls while still delivering power and stability. This ultimately led to the engineering and development of the c-fury™, a unique brand of small watercraft with big abilities. Combining the exhilaration and agility of a PWC with the inherent safety of a RIB, the c-fury delivers performance, excellent fuel efficiency and a smooth ride, all while reducing running costs and the environmental footprint.


The unique multihull patent (as submitted in PCT application PCT/GB2007/003962, PATENTSCOPE® search)

Industrial Designs

The design of the c-fury is protected through two registrations in the European Union, which were both filed in November 2006 and are fully published. One registration (000635446-0001) is for the overall design of the boat, while the other is for the design of the unique multihull (000635446-0002). MakMarine plans to register new designs as they are developed.

Patents

The McLoughlin’s had the right engineering and design skills to ensure that their invention would be attractive to the rapidly growing marine leisure market, but realized that they needed professional expertise when it came to patenting. Drawing up the specification for patenting and applying for protection, particularly abroad, would require specific skills and significant financial resources.

Utilizing the global network of attorneys and agents, they filed an international patent application under the international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system for their improved multihull in 2007. It has already been granted in the UK and applications are being filed in the EU and US. They are also applying for a further patent on two particular aspects of their reworking of the throttle, as well as their steering system. The McLoughlins made a prior international patent application for their steering system which was initially rejected because it was too similar to other technologies. Undeterred, they redesigned it from scratch and are filing another international patent application.

All intellectual property and manufacturing know-how is owned by MakMarine and licensed to c-fury Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of MakMarine that was created to market the intellectual property in Europe.


The c-fury logo, reflecting the adrenaline rush of crashing through waves (Photo: MakMarine)

Trademark and Branding

The c-fury brand was developed in parallel with the McLoughlin’s invention, and it reflects the adrenaline rush of crashing through the waves. The trademark was registered in Australia, Japan, TR and the United States through the international Madrid system, and is also protected in the EU. Grants enabled the McLoughlins to file for protection of the c-fury trademark internationally, a task which would have taken years to complete if they had to go it alone.

Financing and Partnerships

The McLoughlins have spent approximately five years and £160,000 of their own resources developing the c-fury. Aware of the necessity of IP protection to build a strong brand, the McLoughlins applied for a Fillip grant and grants from Business Link and Coventry University to underpin the core IP value of their product, c-fury. The grants enabled them to cover 80% of their IP costs. Armed with this IP, the brothers have been able to concentrate on building the business, move towards raising investment capital and working with some of the leading names in the leisure marine industry. Having IP protection in place builds investor confidence, and gives MakMarine the security to build their new brand for international markets. In negotiations with Yamaha, MakMarine’s patents, trademarks and industrial designs were taken as a sign that they were serious about their invention. As a result, MakMarine is now an OEM customer of Yamaha and a close partnership is developing.

In October 2009, the first pre-production model of the c-fury was built. The McLoughlins are now looking to raise £500,000 in development capital to take them into production. The money will be spent on tooling and systems, as well as being used for working capital. The focus will first be on building up sales in the UK, and the McLoughlins are also in talks about a joint venture with a manufacturer on the South Coast. Eventually they would like to open up to the Mediterranean and the Baltic, before then going on to the US, the Gulf and the Far East, most likely through licensing.


The c-fury Voyager model (Photo: MakMarine)

Business Results

The creation of a small, powerful, comfortable and safe family oriented power boat has gone from an idea to reality in five short years, with the c-fury launching at the 2010 London Boat Show in January. The c-fury is now available in three models with many user-configurable options, and MakMarine plans to expand the c-fury range of small family watercraft in the near future. They will also be launching a range of control and steering systems to optimize outboard performance.

MakMarine plans to continue developing new products and technologies, rapidly moving forward on more IP protection. As the business grows, MakMarine's vision is that those in the small leisure craft market will know that c-fury stands for quality, technological achievement, and fun.

Building a Worldwide Brand through IP Protection

With a great idea on their hands, the McLoughlin brothers knew that they needed IP protection if they were to create a successful worldwide brand. Obtaining IP protection allowed them to be taken seriously by their prospective investors, resulting in a successful partnership with Yamaha. It also allowed them to focus their skills on where they are best used: in the design and engineering of new products. The McLoughlin brothers have been able to build their brand, foster lasting partnerships and research and develop new products, all of which would not have been possible without IP protection. With an eye on further expansion, they continue to look for more partners to license c-fury in international markets.