It is near impossible to work in the world of Intellectual Property without seeing near-daily discussions on whether patents are worth the paper they are written on. This is mainly because of the number of litigation cases regarding patent infringement and disputes; it is believed that patents are only worth the money you have to defend them. For established corporations, this is all part of the process, and they have a bank balance to absorb such an impact. Still, for individual inventors and SMEs, this is an obstacle they cannot always overcome.
Mandy Haberman Story
One example of an individual inventor who triumphed in court over lucrative rival companies is Mandy Haberman, the creator of The Anywayup® Cup. Initially, Mandy came up with a new sucking design and combined a rubber slit valve that was well known for feeding bottle teats with the spout of a trainer cup. Once she had finalised her prototype, she offered it for licence to 18 companies, mostly British, concerned with manufacturing products for infants, but they declined to negotiate a licence. Something they eventually come to regret. With the help of a product designer, she was able to create the first attractive non-leak cup that we all know today – and started producing the cups herself.
It was difficult to get her product in front of buyers due to their reluctance to deal with a one-product company. However, Mandy did not let this stop her and sent the product in a cardboard box filled with blackcurrant juice, with a note: “ If this reaches you without spilling, give us a call”. It worked, and her products were accepted by major supermarket chains such as Tesco and Safeway. Subsequently, she secured an exclusive licencing agreement in the US with a company called “The First Years”.
Was the patent worth it?
With success came aggressive competition, and Mandy was forced to defend her Intellectual Property rights, through the courts, to the tune of half a million pounds, as established corporations in the baby industry did whatever it took to try and justify their sheer oversight of not having invented the product first. She fought and won, Haberman has sold over 60 million cups.
In 1992, Mandy applied for protection for her first prototype after conducting a Worldwide Patent Search. The patent was granted in 1996. From then on, understanding the importance of patents, Mandy widened her patent portfolio and extended her application to different countries.
“As an inventor, it is important to understand how intellectual property works and to do as much as you can to protect your ideas before you share information. By protecting my technologies, I was able to secure my position in the market and reap the benefit from years of hard work.” – Mandy Haberman