"When I look at our Amazon's dashboard, I see that we've already grown 400 percent this month compared to last year, so things are going pretty well", says Marc van der Heide, inventor and owner of Pedal Plate, an insert for road bike pedals. With his product you can easily pedal on them without any special shoes. Things are going well now, but he did have to learn how to deal with copycats and sceptics. How did this inventor achieve his success and how did his patent protection contribute to this?
When did you decide to protect the intellectual property for Pedal Plate?
In 2016 I already had a concrete idea and a couple of prototypes. Initially I was in contact with a patent attorney who was more focused on problems than opportunities. He said: "This is too easy to copy, you'll never win." I then started to look around for an alternative and ended up at EP&C. During an initial meeting with Walter Hart and Matthijs van der Linden I noticed that they actually thought in terms of opportunities. That was the approach I was looking for.
Together we looked at the characteristics of my product and how to build claims around them. Next, they researched the intellectual property of similar products. Based on that research, I decided to really invest in patent protection.
After the patent application, you had a lot of problems with copycats. Why was that?
We filed the patent application in November 2016. In 2017 I put the product on Kickstarter and a couple of months later a number of copycats were already active. Platforms like this are a great source of inspiration for Chinese entrepreneurs.
In order to stop them, I started two pilots, working with external parties. They look for copied products and challenge the sellers on the basis of copyrights, design rights and patents. They try to get as many third parties as possible off eBay, Amazon and Ali Express. We are going to continue working with one of these parties as from August.
In the meantime we have received a letter of allowance from the US. This means that the patent is deemed to be grantable. This will make it even easier to tackle copycats in the future. For Europe, the patent application will also be granted soon.
Is this it as far as protection is concerned or are you going to extend your patent portfolio?
Up until recently, we have only focused on the patent for the road bike, but I also have two new models for mountain bikes. We have now filed a patent application for these as well. We are still considering whether or not to skip the PCT step in this case. We did use it for the road bike, but it takes up a lot of time. That can be useful at times, but in the long period between the application being filed and the patent being granted, it was more difficult for us to tackle copycats.
After this patent, that will be it for the time being. Japan is our top country, we have a new distributor for Spain, we are active in Australia, we have a couple of large parties in mind for Germany and Belgium and are doing a trial at Decathlon. So that is looking good. Things never go as quickly as you would have liked, but I could already make a good living from what I sell online and what is going to distributors.