Today is World IP Day!
This year’s theme ‘Reach for Gold’ celebrates a global industry that is now a multi-billion dollar commerce – sports! Creating opportunity, investment and enjoyment…most of us have taken part in or spectated at least one sport during our lives. For me personally, I love triathlon. Why participate in one sport when you can take on three?
To celebrate today, we are shining a spotlight on how innovation, creativity and IP rights support the development and enjoyment of sport around the world. You can also follow the IPO's Twitter and Facebook channels for highlights throughout the whole of today.
One company that are innovating to enhance sports' performance and its global appeal are our case study, Stateside Skates. They are an award-winning, worldwide distributor of extreme sports products and a big force in the action sports industry, with over 35 years expertise.
On Wednesday of this week, to kick start the celebrations, we caught up with Stateside Skates at an event we hosted at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The event brought together a range of people including the Minister for IP Chris Skidmore, the IPO's CEO Tim Moss and innovative UK businesses. It was an opportunity to celebrate and showcase UK creativity and innovation and to reinforce a commitment to supporting businesses on their IP journey.
Get your skates on
Founded in 1981, the business was set up to plug a gap in the market for roller skates. Now, this one-time small Buckinghamshire trader is an internationally recognised company. Its product range includes skateboards, scooters and skates. They also own the Rio Roller fashion skate, as seen on the feet of many high-profile celebrities.
After UK success, the business entered the Spanish market and this was soon followed up across Europe. They have also now begun to open up markets further afield, in South Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada and Russia.
With wide-scale exposure and an expanding customer base, how do they keep their products desirable? The answer: by protecting their intellectual property (IP).
Not only do they have 19 UK registered trade marks, they have also protected each of these with European registrations. Further worldwide applications are also in the pipeline.
CEO, Alistair Crichton explains:
The business owns 8 different brands, each with their own unique design and selling point. Protecting our IP ensures we can produce, market and sell our brands safe in the knowledge that we are the owners. We can take action if anyone tries to copy or pass off their products as ours. Having our brands as registered trade marks assures customers they’re getting the original product.
Taking on the world stage
With all the hard work it takes to establish your business overseas, it’s vital that you protect your IP assets in those regions too. We put a lot of effort into product development and every product we make is unique to us.
So what routes did the Stateside Skates team follow to protect themselves?
Our in-house lawyer worked with a local firm of trade mark and patent attorneys to protect our brands in the UK and Europe. Before making our applications we checked that we wouldn’t be infringing other registered brands. We did this by searching both the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) trade mark registers.
A shared experience
For any business, breaking into new territories can be a hard task. Yet Stateside Skates appear to have done so with relative ease. How? With the help available from the Department for International Trade (DIT, formerly UKTI).
DIT have been a great support throughout our international sales growth. They have provided training, advice on languages and great contacts. We found the idea of ‘culture’ essential to understanding export markets.
It’s essential to understand the product demands and way of working in each market before attempting to break into it. Before becoming involved with DIT, our export sales accounted for around 5% of our total sales. Now that figure is around 60%.
Skating into the future
With this wealth of experience behind them, what advice would Alistair give to those thinking considering IP and exporting opportunities?
We would urge SMEs to invest in IP early on. If you are a company which makes unique products, investment in IP is worth the time and money. Otherwise you can leave yourself open to your products being copied or passed off by rival companies.
Business is now booming worldwide. But having already growing so quickly, where does Alistair see Stateside Skates going from here?
We’re continuing to design our products under our house brands and to make them more desirable in the European market. We also plan to take the brands across the world and sell further into Asia, Australia and North America.
It was great to catch up with Stateside Skates this week. Join us today in celebrating the power of all sports to engage and inspire, to innovate and unite us in pushing the boundaries of human achievement. However, I’m not sure that’s me in a pair of skates; more hazard than harmony. I’ll stick to swim, bike and run!
To read more about World IP Day, this year's theme and the various activities going on across the world, visit the WIPO website.