Category The Design of Things. to Come

IP: Trade Secret

One other tool in the legal system can be used to protect IP—the trade secret. This is an option for some companies that want the com­petitive advantage only until their product is released, or for those products that cannot be reverse-engineered (harder and harder to protect with today’s technologies). A trade secret is protected, obvi­ously, by keeping it a secret, a more and more difficult task in today’s environment, where employees frequently are hired away by com­petitors. Coca-Cola’s recipe and Kodak’s emulsifiers are examples of trade secrets; no one outside the company knows those formulas. Technologies in fast-paced markets or fashion trends are often kept secret until release, because by the time competitors catch up, the technology or style will be outdated...


IP: Trade Dress

Copyright and trademarks do not address the look of the product itself. A powerful emerging approach to protect the look of a product over the long term is to establish a trade dress for the product. Trade dress is probably the least understood but most important form of iP protection from a long-term brand benefit. Trade dress is trademark protection for the look of a product or service that associates the prod­uct with the manufacturer. It is less specific than a design patent, but similar, broader, and of longer impact. Like a trademark, as long as you use it, you can maintain it. Trade dress associates secondary meaning to the consumer that associates a nonfunctional feature of a product or service to the product or brand in the public’s mind...


IP: Copyright and Trademark

Companies use copyright and trademark protection for works of authorship such as music, writings, art, and forms (the copyright), and any words, names, and symbols that indicate the source of the prod­uct, such as a logo (the trademark). In the United States, copyright protection lasts as long as the author is alive, plus 70 years. For corpo­rate authorship, it lasts 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. Many core products, such as books and music, can only be copyrighted. The trademark, on the other hand, can be very important for brand protection, and as long as you use it and maintain it, you can renew its protection indefinitely. But it must be maintained. If it becomes a generic word, it is no longer a trademark...


IP: Design Patents

The design patent is the companion to the utility patent. Design patents protect the form of an “article of manufacture.” Design patents protect the effort to create aesthetic innovation. They are simpler to formulate than utility patents and are as vague as a utility patent is precise. The design patent is a sketch or two of a design. If another design looks like the one drawn in the figure, it is in violation of the patent. A design patent generally has a more subjective inter­pretation, relying on an aesthetic viewpoint...


IP: Utility Patents

The judicial system believes that, in general, everything that is made or described can be copied by anyone else. The exceptions are those that are protected through IP law.1,2 There are several aspects to legal IP protection. From a product development viewpoint, these can be divided into technology and style. On the technology side, utility patents protect innovation in functionality and manufacturing. Utility

1 Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Thomas & Betts Corp. v. Panduit Corp.

65 F.3d 654, 1995.

2 L. A. Gear, Inc. v. Thom McAn Shoe Co. 988 F.2d 1117, 1993.

patents are the most widely understood and well-used IP tool in new product development...


Why Is Swiffer Out Front?

P&G created an entire system around floor sweeping through the Swiffer brand. But the Swiffer sweeper system is not the only one out there. S. C. Johnson’s Pledge Grab-It is a competitive system that was introduced the same month. It seems like there is no difference between them for the average person. Why, then, is Swiffer the brand of choice? Why do consumers so often refer to competing products as Swiffers, but nobody refers to the Swiffer as a Grab-It?

There are many parts to the answer. First, Swiffer was first to market, and P&G made a bigger deal of the product introduction. The market pioneer often gets an advantage in product and brand recognition...


Swiffer: A P&G Innovation Success

For Procter & Gamble, those cloths are important, because that is where P&G makes its money; the mop itself is just a delivery sys­tem for the cloths. The idea of constant sale of disposable attach­ments is a golden one, used long ago by IBM with its computer punch cards and still used today by Gillette with its razor blades. Gillette will happily give you a razor, because you cannot use it without purchas­ing the blades. Those blades, which can cost a dollar apiece, need to be replaced every week or so. No matter how bad the economy, everyone wants to look good, so they will buy razor blades.

Every industry looks for punch cards and razor blades. Swiffer has found them...


Understanding Customers in the Field

Innovative product developers spend time in the field. They observe, interview, and analyze the actual people who will use their product. At New Balance, Josh Kaplan from the advanced product group flies around the country and goes on runs with different lead users, under­standing the nuances that make their running experience great. Designers at Whirlpool go on service calls to understand the context of where their product is used and how to make it better; that even includes VP Chuck Jones. CEo Eric Close and the engineers at RedZone spend days on site observing how the crews interact with their equipment and each other to improve the experience of sewer repair.

The student team spent much time studying potential users and other key stakeholders...


A Case Study in Innovation for New Balance: Four Phases of New Product Development

This chapter illustrates a comprehensive methodology that includes the issues and tools presented in earlier chapters. It begins with how companies identify opportunities to develop new products, how they expand their understanding of those opportunities, and how they translate that understanding into a set of product requirements or specifications that fulfill the market’s needs. The examples then show how that early set of product requirements leads to a process of prod­uct conceptualization and refinement, and eventually production of a product with features tailored to the needs of the individuals in the target market.[11]

For this project, New Balance assigned the team the task of developing a new market opportunity for the growing consumer seg­ment of people who are overweight—not t...


Innovation by Cooperation

As companies struggle to find new competitive advantage, they are using a number of techniques to stimulate organic growth. These approaches include working with respected experts to run workshops and hiring consulting firms to support and bring new perspectives. To extend R&D capability, some companies turn to universities to conduct research and exploration into areas the company does not otherwise have time or resources to explore. New Balance has an advanced product group, led by Edith Harmon, who we discussed in Chapter 1, “The New Breed of Innovator,” which is the greenhouse for organic growth in the company.

Harmon approached Carnegie Mellon University because she believes that the outcome of such relationships can complement and stimulate organic growth internally...