As I sit here listening to the rain beating against the window, I can’t help wondering if this is the end of our summer. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the two entrepreneurs who sparked my interest this week, conjure up soothing thoughts of being at the beach, basking in the hot sun.
Unfortunately, there’s little sign of the sun in Wales today, but things are certainly hotting up in the Den as another round of hopeful entrepreneurs face the Dragons.
The seal of approval
First to enter the Den this week were father and son, Simon and Toby Brookes. They were pitching for 50k in return for a 25% share of their business, Funky Seal Wetsuits.
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Simon and Toby came up with the idea behind the company at the beach – where else?! Bored with all the dark-coloured wetsuits on the market, they decided to bring some colour to the industry with their eye-catching range of patterned wetsuits.
After delivering a colourful pitch, everything seemed to be going swimmingly as fashion mogul Touker commented favourably on the quality of their product. However, the Dragons soon threw the duo in at the deep end, quizzing them about their figures and their knowledge of the market.
Simon soon found himself in hot water as he struggled to stay afloat and answer the Dragons’ questions. One by one, the Dragons opted out of the deal, with Deborah suggesting that the idea could easily be replicated.
Whilst this is somewhat true – you can’t protect an idea – you can protect the intellectual property (IP) around the idea; the brand, the way something looks or feels, how it is made etc.
With this in mind, Simon and Toby may be able to protect their wetsuits with a registered design. This protects the overall look of your product including the:
- configuration (how the different parts are arranged together) and
Patterns, such as the ones used by Funky Seal Wetsuits, are classed as repeated surface patterns and are often seen in wallpaper, carpets, curtains etc. Repeated surface patterns can be protected by a registered design, although you must prepare your illustrations in a specific way when applying.
For more information on registered designs, our IP Basics video ‘Should I have a registered design’ is a great place to start:
Unfortunately for Simon and Toby, their pitch was a wash out with the Dragons and they left the Den empty handed.
A winning streak
Last (but not least!) to face the Dragons this week was Noelle O’Connor and Aaron Lubrani. They were looking to secure a 150k investment in return for a 5% stake in their business TanOrganic, a range of organic self-tanning products.
After appearing on the Irish Dragons’ Den back in 2010, Noelle was no stranger to the show’s concept and delivered a glowing, yet emotional, pitch.
The eagle-eyed Deborah Meaden was first to pick up on the IP, questioning the duo to see if Noelle’s idea was more than skin-deep.
With several ‘potentially patentable products’ in the pipeline including an organic sunblock, Noelle and Aaron seemed to be on to a winning streak.
When Deborah asked who owns the IP, Noelle said it belonged to the biotechnology company who created the innovative compound. However, she had the rights to purchase the IP providing she paid back some of the funding.
When it comes to IP, you may have the idea (as Noelle did) but not the skills or equipment to create the product, or to market it. In these cases, you may need to work with another business or industry in order to bring your idea to fruition.
If you are working with a third party, it’s always best to determine (in writing) who owns the IP before any work takes place. It’s also recommended to use non-disclosure agreements, as mentioned in last week’s blog.
For businesses working with universities on research projects, the IPO’s Lambert Toolkit has a set of model agreements which can be used to form negotiations between the different parties.
Sadly, while Noelle was willing to join forces with her biotech company, she wasn’t willing to part with any more of her company than originally proposed. Despite each of the Dragons making her an offer, Noelle left the Den without a Dragon on board and her day in the sun was truly over.