The initial spark of Russell’s initial innovative idea came when returning from holiday with his family. They had to wait at the airport while their missing pushchair was located, and Russell began to think about how to construct a folding buggy which would be easy to carry about when not in use. He also wanted something which would not easily topple over when bags are added to it.
Russell explained that before he came up with the idea for a folding pushchair-and-rucksack, he was a youth worker. He had no experience of product development, business, finance or intellectual property – areas which he has had to learn from scratch.
He enrolled on a business course, and from there was put in touch with Manchester central library’s Business & IP Centre. Through the centre he spoke to a patent attorney and was introduced to the delights of patent searching. Patent searching is always a vital first step in trying to determine whether an inventor’s “new” idea is actually original, and Russell spent many hours trying to find any previously filed patent applications which might thwart his plans.
Since then he has had three UK patents granted and several international patents filed; has visited trade shows both here and abroad and his folding buggy has won several awards.
As with most inventors he has not found the process of getting his product to market an easy one. Finance has been the biggest difficulty – he has gained funding from a variety of sources, including venture capitalists, private individuals and government bodies, but the development of a new product tends to involve significant costs. Maintaining financial support over a period of time is always a challenge. Russell has found that a surprising amount has been done through good will.
Prototyping, of course, can be expensive and it’s not unusual to have to produce several versions of a product. Russell described one incident where he discovered he had £10,000 worth of prototypes which didn’t work because the prototype hadn’t got all the parts right. The discovery was made just before he was due at a trade show.
He made a conscious decision to manufacture in the UK, partly for ethical reasons and partly to ensure that he kept control of development. It’s obviously easier to oversee development here than having to regularly travel abroad.
Knowing your product in detail is vital – every component, what they’re made of and how it works. Russell kept emphasising the importance of research, and this is something which should be ongoing – you need to know your market and the processes involved in getting your product out there. And be aware that the market will change and you need to adapt. Keep improving your product.
Your competitors will also look closely at what you are doing and try to find ways of improving what you have done. Russell already has other products in the planning stage rather than just relying on one.
He had to learn about finance and about design and the terminology which is used in those areas.
If you’re going to succeed you also need a network. If you’re going for money, financiers will want to know who you’re connected with – it can make you a more attractive proposition. And unless you work hard to talk to people and make connections you won’t find the people who can help.
In Russell’s view it’s best to file a patent as late as possible because once it’s published everyone knows what you’re doing. Patenting can be very expensive and money you spend on it is not going into the product itself – but if you have intellectual property you can licence it.
For the trade mark Ruk-bug® Russell wanted something which would give some indication of what the product is – buggy / rucksack. But he also wanted a logo which would indicate a sense of fun. A series of designs were created and tested with a focus group and the favourite was then registered as a trade mark.