By Serena Christiansson, Hague Development and Promotion Section, Hague Registry, WIPO
We are all under ever-increasing pressure to do our bit for a greener planet, and to adopt a healthier life-style. One solution – killing two birds with one stone – is the e-bike, a quick and increasingly popular alternative to sitting in endless queues of traffic.
However, when we have kids to drop off at school and a week’s worth of groceries to pick-up on the way home, the family car often still comes out on top. This is where cargo bikes can come into play. Though by no means a new phenomenon – in Europe, they date back as far as the late 1800s – the cargo bike has made a comeback in recent years, slowly becoming a viable alternative to the family car, for shorter journeys at least.
Founded in 2019 by bike industry veteran Franc Arnold and particle foam expert Thorsten Michel, the German small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) Ca Go – part of the RTI Group – is already producing a winning design.
They may be newcomers to the cargo bike market, but the company has very solid foundations. Arnold is behind the ergonomic bike components company “Ergon”, and the head designer Johannes Rasche has a background in cargo bikes. It’s perhaps not so surprising then that they have perfected the design of what has quickly become at least one of the worlds’ safest and most comfortable cargo bikes on the market for transporting children, pets, goods, and more.
The founders of Ca Go never actually planned to design – let alone build – a bike.
In fact, if we go right back to the beginning of their story, everything started with a bike saddle, built using an expandable polyurethane material. They became aware of other particle foams used as energy absorbers, particularly in cars, and realized that – using the same production technology developed for the saddle – they could potentially adapt these materials for different purposes.
From there, an idea started to form…
They had noticed that many cargo bikes in Germany were fitted with wooden boxes, offering very little protection – no shock absorbers, no safety belts… They could adapt the material used to build their saddle to develop a safe and sturdy cargo bike box. And they could integrate essential security features to keep children safe.
If you look, you can really see that the heart of our bikes is the box system; we designed from inside to outside. Most companies build the bike first and then realize that they need to fit kids in somewhere. Ours is a different way of thinking. We put safety first.Arndt Graeve, Chief Technology Officer, Ca Go
They presented their idea to bike manufacturers in Germany. The idea was clearly a good one, but no one was willing or able to give them an on-order contract; it would take six or seven years to go from concept to production. This was simply too long for our friends to wait.
So, they decided to create a prototype “show” bike around the box – just for display purposes. They presented the prototype at the 2019 Eurobike Show. It was a massive hit and they realized that they were going to have get this bike built!
They still did not intend to manufacture the bike themselves; plenty of experts around the world can build bikes after all! Nevertheless, they had soon assembled a team and production began! Today, Ca Go has a head count of some 40 employees, more than half of them involved in production.
Ca Go’s electric cargo bikes are fast, maneuverable and roomy. They have a sporty and agile, yet robust, design and come with a range of accessories.
All the bikes are fitted with direct cable steering for a smoother ride, and pedal assistance takes the pressure off the driver. With battery capacity of up to 1250Wh, even the steep hills are a breeze! And, all models are fully customizable.
Ca Go’s “FS200 Vario” – safely transporting goods (Photos: Ca Go)
"Ca Go – For all your precious cargo."
Safety pours into every aspect of Ca Go’s 200-liter cargo box. It is light yet robust, shock-absorbent and water-repellent. And, it is fully recyclable.
We were the first company to produce a box that really addressed safety issues. To prove it – and even though there is no requirement to do so – we performed crash tests, to show our customers that it’s not just marketing flannel – their kids really will be safer.Arndt Graeve
Though many companies can produce expanded polypropylene (EPP)-based materials, not all can make them look good! This is where Thorsten Michel – CEO of Formenbau GmbH & Co. KG – has helped Ca Go enormously. He has the tools and expertise to tailor EPP-based surfaces, producing a glossy, classy, high quality effect. The result; a very smart looking – and safe – cargo box.
In terms of color, Ca Go have stuck largely to a darker color palette, using black with splashes of color. They use a light grey hue for the supporting framework, which elegantly curves around the cargo box, creating the illusion of space. Rather than looking bulky and front-heavy, the cargo box looks streamlined and elegant.
Design is a key influencer when we consider buying a product; the better looking the product is, the more likely we are to invest. Protection of designs is essential – exclusive rights and protection against copying and counterfeits strengthen the competitive position and the commercial value of a business and its products. "We know that any product we show will be copied elsewhere within six months. It’s impressive to see how many cargo bikes now use EPP-based boxes; and more and more will come. We need to protect our designs quickly."
Ca Go started out by obtaining national protection of their designs in Germany – their main market. As business grew, they set their sights on other European markets – initially Belgium and the Netherlands. It was time to find a solution to protect their designs further afield.
With the help of an attorney, they filed their first application to secure international design protection through WIPO’s Hague System in August 2020. Their target markets? The European Union, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America!
Reminder! Using the Hague System, you can file one international application to request design protection in more than 90 countries. Find out more: How the Hague System works.
Today Ca Go have three international design registrations that, between them, cover some 29 bike, cargo box and accessory designs.
As a small company, there’s a lot for us to think about. Our products have to respect national regulations; we have to produce manuals in different languages; we have to be sure that we do not infringe on other people’s rights. This can make it hard to access new markets. Anything that makes our life easier is a bonus. The Hague System is definitely doing that!Arndt Graeve
So, where might Ca Go try to market their designs next? Having already secured protection of their designs in the US through the Hague System (International Registration DM/211458), the door to the North American market is just waiting to be opened!
“Our newest bike definitely has the potential to be marketed in the US. It’s not imminent but, sooner or later we will enter the North American market. From there who knows. We have people from everywhere showing interest. Asia could happen… But, Europe first; then the US!Arndt Graeve
You can find out more about Ca Go’s international registrations in our Hague Express database.
WIPO’s Hague System provides a unique international mechanism for securing and managing design rights simultaneously in multiple countries or regions through one application, in one language with one set of fees.
If you would be interested in sharing your own Designs in Action story, illustrating how you've leveraged the Hague System to secure international design protection, we would love to hear from you – Contact Hague!
(February 14, 2023)