Anywayup cups are totally leak-proof even when shaken vigorously or left upside down overnight (reproduced by kind permission of Mandy Haberman)
In 1990, after observing a toddler spill blackcurrant juice all over her friend’s immaculate cream-colored carpet, Mandy Haberman started developing a solution that would prevent such accidents from occurring again: the “Anywayup® Cup”, a totally non-drip, non-spill children’s cup that seals between sips.
Anywayup cups have a unique valve molded into the mouthpiece to ensure that the spout automatically seals between sips, making them not only totally leak-proof even when shaken vigorously or left upside down overnight, but also safe from drips lurking above the valve.
In 1992, Ms. Haberman, a graphic designer by training, decided to protect the first prototype of her spill-proof cup. After conducting a search for prior art that did not reveal anything relevant to her invention, she applied for a patent. The patent protected her idea of a cup that controls the flow of liquid through a specially crafted spout. Additional national and international patents were later filed and granted.
Prototypes of the innovative product were offered for licensing to 18 companies concerned with the manufacture of products for infants. Although the response was enthusiastic, none of the companies were prepared to pay for a license.
Mandy Haberman, inventor of the Anywayup cup (reproduced by kind permission of M. Haberman)
Therefore, in 1995, Ms. Haberman decided to join forces with Cardiff-based “V&A Marketing”, a company that specialized in marketing innovative products. Bringing the product to market was challenging and there were many setbacks along the way.
Eventually though, helped by the nationally and internationally registered Anywayup trademark, the first full trading year yielded sales of half a million units. In 1996, the cup started to sell in unprecedented numbers, at a rate of 60,000 per week.
Selling the cup through supermarkets had not been easy due to their reluctance in dealing with one-product companies. Using their creativity, Ms. Haberman and her partners still managed to convince the buyer of a major British supermarket chain by sending her an Anywayup cup full of blackcurrant drink with a note saying: “If this reaches you without spilling, give us a call!” It did not spill and the product reached store shelves within a few weeks. “After that, it snowballed”, she recalls.
Buoyed by the commercial success of the product and understanding the importance of design, Ms. Haberman employed designer Sebastian Conran to produce a new redesigned range of cups in translucent colors. These new look cups made a big impact on the market and set a benchmark for design in the industry. Their designs were initially protected by unregistered design rights in the United Kingdom and additionally by a 3D shape trademark.
British Library Business & IP Centre "Inspiring Entrepreneurs" portrait of Mandy Haberman
In 1996, a US company signed an exclusive United States licensing agreement to manufacture and sell the product under the Tumble Mates® brand. Two years later, Ms. Haberman licensed her technology to V&A Marketing and soon afterwards, V&A Marketing was judged the fastest growing business in Wales. Those licenses later became non-exclusive and further licenses have since been granted for the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.
As is often the case, commercial success brought imitation with it and the Anywayup cup risked becoming a victim of its own success: just 18 months after the product was launched, Ms. Haberman discovered that one of the British companies she had initially approached for licensing was making a very similar product to the Anywayup cup.
Despite the personal financial risk, Ms. Haberman and her licensee (V&A Marketing) decided to sue the infringing company and won the legal battle. An injunction preventing further infringement of the patent was ordered and the appeal was abandoned shortly thereafter as an out of court settlement was reached, paying costs and damages to Haberman and her licensing partner.
“Because I had patents, I was able to go to court, defend my idea, enforce my patent rights and that meant that I kept my monopoly in the market. This made me a lot of money; if I had not had the patents, I would not have made anything”, Ms. Haberman sums up.
Later on, Ms. Haberman initiated more legal proceedings in Europe and in the United States, where the validity of her patents was confirmed. “As a result of my US patents being declared valid in court, other companies have since requested licenses. So financially, overall, enforcing my rights has turned out to be well worthwhile for me”, she says.
Over 60 million Anywayup cups are now sold globally each year (reproduced by kind permission of Mandy Haberman)
Ms. Haberman and the Anywayup cup have achieved great success over the last few years, with over 60 million cups, using her patented technology, now being sold globally each year. Both product and inventor have won numerous awards including the British Female Inventor of the Year award in 2000, a gold medal at the Geneva international invention fair, the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards for innovation and product design, and the British Plastics Federation award for innovative use of plastics.
Today Ms. Haberman is a successful entrepreneur and has taken an active role in policy-making acting as adviser to the British government and the Patent Office on intellectual property (IP) matters. She also devotes much of her available time to providing direction, help and encouragement to would-be inventors.
A creative idea paired with intelligent use of IP laid the foundation for Ms. Haberman’s successful business: while the patents taken out protected her ingenious technology from copycats and generated licensing opportunities, attractive design and clever branding made the product popular with consumers around the world.
This case study is based on information from:
Date of publication: July 28, 2009