The latest design of the RE:tie confers additional ease of use to those with poor motility (Photo: Junkk.com Ltd.)
Opening a plastic bottle was all it took to unleash Peter Martin’s invention genie: while removing the closure strip (called a tamper-evident security closure) from the bottle cap and throwing it in the trash bag, which he closed with a cable tie, he realized that it would make sense to be able to re-use the strip as a cable tie.
During the summer of 2006, he redesigned the security closure strip found around many containers, especially drink bottles and jars, by introducing a block with a hole. The RE:tie was born: a cap closure strip that can be saved and reused as a cable tie in all sorts of domestic, DIY, garden and work-related ways. Aside from being green, the solution benefits both consumers, who get a freebie, and vendors, who can use it as a marketing tool: “It creates a genuine green benefit for supermarkets and packagers. When anyone buys a bottle, they get a free clip and can rest a little easier about destroying the planet”, Mr. Martin explains.
Mr. Martin, a civil engineer by training, benefited from the Fillip grants program sponsored by Advantage West Midlands, the Regional Development Agency (RDA) for the West Midlands. The Fillip program offers West Midland small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) up to £42,500 of funding to protect and exploit the value of their IP, such as patents, designs and trademarks.
RE:tie drawing as submitted in International Patent Application No. PCT/GB2007/050641 (PATENTSCOPE® search)
In October 2006, Mr. Martin’s company, Junkk.com®, applied for national patent protection. Later on, in autumn 2007, using the Fillip grant, patent protection for RE:tie was enhanced through national and regional patents granted as a result of an international patent application through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system. Protecting his product enabled Mr. Martin to start looking for buyers without the fear of losing his intellectual property (IP). He felt that patent protection opened up a multitude of opportunities, and has made potential buyers take him seriously.
Mr. Martin was delighted with the patent application that his IP Company had written for him; converting his 2-page brief into a legally crafted 18-page patent application which maximized the protection for his invention, and included new application areas for the product not previously identified. "It prevents anyone else sticking a hole in a piece of plastic round the top of a bottle", he puts in plain words. He advises companies to use the professional services of IP attorneys and agents to make applications on their behalf as they have an understanding of requirements a patent examiner would wish to see, but are not known or obvious to lay persons.
Junkk.com has also been fortunate enough to obtain prototypes of its product, which are extremely useful to explain the product to potential buyers. According to Mr. Martin: “In a twist of the cap you can show them ... how Mr. and Mrs. Consumer will use it ... and view it”.
In addition to patenting his invention, he registered the name of his company (Junkk.com) and its first brand, the RE:tie, as trademarks with the national IP office.
The RE:tie converts bottle closure strips into cable ties.
The RE:tie has won several invention awards, including medals from the British Inventors Society (BIS) and the Geneva invention show. Following public relations efforts and exhibitions such as “Caps and Closures” in Brussels, “Ecopack‘08” and NEC Birmingham, a number of large manufacturers and retailers have shown interest in securing marketing rights to the RE:tie. Junkk.com is in negations with a number of them with the aim of bringing this product to market at the earliest opportunity. However, Mr. Martin has experienced that licensing negotiations can be challenging: “You have to conduct a weird dance between the supermarkets, the brands and the manufacturers. They will put up a lot of negatives. You have to know your commercial case inside out”.
Helped by the Advantage West Midlands "innovation vouchers scheme", Mr. Martin recently commissioned consumer research to evaluate to what extent "the public will see the RE:tie as a worthwhile benefit". Research results suggest that three in four consumers have a positive attitude towards using the RE:tie, and that two thirds of consumers are more likely to choose a product with a RE:tie on it than one without it.
Junkk.com hopes to attract the interest, respect of and, hopefully, fair deals with major blue-chip brands worldwide. “Green is an interesting word, in all its positive, ‘good’ connotations, as with money and benefits to the environment … doing the right things in the right way, we hope to attract the caliber of partner(s) to make bring this concept to very profitable, mutually-rewarding reality”, Mr. Martin sums up.
In July 2011, Mr. Martin won the "Green Apple Environment Award", Britain's major recognition for environmental endeavour among companies, councils, communities and countries. He hopes that “this award and our latest new public 'two thumbs up' consumer market research will bring RE:tie’s global potential to the attention of ethical business folk who care about 'green'... in all its forms.”
Without international IP protection for the RE:tie, Junkk.com would not have been able to promote its invention in the way it did: “Had I not patented the idea, I would not have felt secure enough to exhibit in Geneva and win the Gold Award”, concludes Mr. Martin.
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