You might remember that in a previous article about the Talking Packaging for Healthcare products, I referred to an interview in Packaging World, where Richard Adams, head of Pack Graphic Design at GlaxoSmithKline, gave the following answer to the question, about what he is looking for from packaging suppliers: “In a word, innovation – innovative materials and packaging solutions to meet the diversification efforts within our company. ……… We simply do not have the time or resources to understand what is available and new”.
Apparently it is a problem which many (multi-national) consumer goods companies are facing. Last week Unilever launched an online open innovation platform, which is intended to be a gateway for collaborations between Unilever’s own R&D specialists and any designer, engineer or whatever to come to innovation breakthroughs.
According to Unilever, a successful solution could change the way billions of products are packaged and make a significant difference to the environment and the lives of its consumers.
It is well-known that sustainability is a key priority for Unilever and in this light, sustainable packaging is a strategic goal for which the online innovation platform is a perfect tool to uncover new and innovative technical solutions to boost growth while cutting its carbon footprint. But in its drive to reduce the overall environmental impact, Unilever is looking for novel and innovative ways to package its products to reduce their overall weight while simultaneously cutting down on waste.
Unilever states: “We’re open to working with partners who can help with the solutions we’re already considering, or who have an idea we haven’t thought of at all”.
Do you have an idea for better packaging? Go to the Unilever Portal.
But before you do so, I have a warning!
Unilever requests that all information you provide in these initial stages imposes no obligation of confidentiality for Unilever or its affiliate yet2.com (who ever that might be). If your submission passes the screening criteria, all your details will be passed to Unilever for further internal detailed review. Prior to any confidential discussions, you will be asked to sign a separate, further Agreement with Unilever so that any confidential information, that is subsequently shared, is protected.
The keyword here is: subsequently. I have some problems with the condition of the “no obligation of confidentiality for Unilever” in the initial stage. I am not saying that it is tricky, but it might cause problems later, when the screening turns out to be negative for the inventor.
If more packaging and consumer goods companies (the good, the bad and the ugly) are initiating open innovations portals, and that is to be expected, then this situation screams for another portal: Registration of Innovations, where inventors can store (partly open, partly hidden) their inventions and particularly the evolving developments in terms of variations, based on the original invention.
I am well aware that Unilever requires that a submission must have IP protection. But a breach of the original patent isn’t the problem. The problem arises the moment an invention evolves into some variants, new shapes, new applications, which can’t be additionally patented by the original inventor, as it is costing fortunes and in general inventors haven’t fortunes to spend.
And here comes the cockroach! In the world of inventors a cockroach is a company (you might say a copy-cat, but much more sleazy) that steals the idea which is the result of an evolution of an original patent. It then is looking for “openings’ in the original patent to patent the evolution as a new development in its own name. After that, the evolution is not any longer an evolution and property of the original inventor, but fully owned by the cockroach.
We all know numerous examples of this behaviour. The cockroach is just sucking inventor’s blood. Worse even the inventor can almost do nothing. The cockroach’s patents are based on a new shape, a new application, etc., modifications the inventors hasn’t patented. And the inventor isn’t able to protest as he can’t prove that he was the first. No date registration is available to show in court.
A Packaging Innovation Platform, which lets everyone issue his invention for registration, partly open, partly hidden, will safeguard the inventor when some cockroach, after the issue date inside this platform, tries to patent a product registered on this platform. This platform protects its members, the inventors can sue a cockroach, or inform the patent office, based upon information inside this platform. The most important is the issuing date, which will be accepted as fact by any court. We always have Google to prove the correctness of the issuing date.
To end this story. Did I insinuate that Unilever is a cockroach? Of course not, as I said, there are the good, the bad and the ugly.
One more point. I know there are fairly similar (commercial) websites as the platform here proposed. They are (in my opinion) all too expensive, too complicated and want to commercialise the invention or new technology. That’s not what I have in mind.
What I have in mind is a platform for the individual inventor or small inventive company. Small member fee, no obligations, no further costs. The commercialisation is best be done by the inventor.