Here's a sneak peek at two as-yet-unpublished utility patents that address unmet needs in industrial product packaging through overcap designs that add utility and value for spray cans, paint cans and related containers.
Michael Worden is a forward-thinking industrial designer and founder of Preddis LLC who has been working on several concepts that he felt our readers may been interested in. Worden was kind enough to share some documentation and answer our questions in advance of the patent filings being published by the U.S. Patent Office.
As an occasional do-it-myself painter using brush-on liquid and spray products, I could immediately see the value of his designs. See if you agree figuratively or literally; for the latter, you may comment below.
Please summarize what this is about.
Worden: As an industrial designer, I have made a lot of models and am also exposed to others making models and using a great deal of aerosol paints. I also do woodworking on the side, and use a fair amount of stains, lacquers and paints. Through experience I've learned of the many challenges of applying coatings and how they can frustrate the end user. What we came up with was a very simple integrated overcap for sprays and brush products that will allow the user to simply pull off a cap and have a functional stand that will help produce better coating results; without having to search to find a support that will not damage your coated work surface.
How long has this been in development and how did the concept originate?
Worden: We have been working on the concepts for just about a year now. These products originated out of the shear frustration we faced when coating products, and with a certain flash of inspiration. We saw that spray cans had overcaps already, and it just seemed natural to incorporate overcaps with functional props, which we think most users will perceive as a free tool that can be used over and over again. While this is simple to understand, creating the functional products were challenging and took months of work. As we all know, making things really simple can be the biggest challenge. We have made numerous CAD files and then made lots of rapid prototypes. Everyone on our team really liked the overcaps for spray cans so we immediately started working on variables for flat cans as well.
What are the key benefits of your inventions?
Worden: These products are very low-cost solutions that will help end users in the application of the coatings. The pieces can support all types of shapes and will be able to support a substantial amount of weight, which will allow them to be used effectively for most projects. The aerosol caps can also be placed on empty cans and they can then be rotated, which essentially creates a lazy susan for an improved coating environment. There are numerous variables that we have also created, such as a version for flat cans where the overcaps can be broken into individual pieces that you can then use to support bigger items such as furniture. In the end, we feel that we have created simple solutions that users will appreciate and will be easy for them to distinguish on the store's shelves.
What markets do these address?
Worden: We believe these inventions will be useful for both the do-it yourself and professional trade markets. Ultimately we want the end user to focus on producing great coating results, instead of spending time digging around for a prop that will not damage their work pieces. Marketing is a key feature of our strategy. In our research we visited numerous retail locations throughout the country, and we were annoyed by how confusing it was to decipher all of the packaging and then figure out what type of coating to use. Simply put, most of the brands were using these traditional shapes for aerosol cans that have been around for years. We knew that there was a great opportunity to create new packaging that would help identify the brand for the end user.
What options would be available?
Worden: Our work has led to numerous variables which we tried to account for in our patent filings. We have created several variations for both aerosols and flat can applications. We believe the material used and pricing will be consistent with existing aerosol overcaps. Since there are really no known companies that use over caps for flat can applications this may be an up-charge in a traditional sense, we feel that any costs will be off-set by the increased brand recognition and added benefits for the purchaser. A key note about the flat-can applications is that if you do not want to use the overcap as an actual stand, you can place them on the bottom of the can so that they can also be used as a drip catcher.
What is the status? What kind of interest have you seen?
Worden: We have been flying under the radar as we have been working on numerous concepts, while filing for patents and doing many other needed tasks. We have talked to a few key industry players and the interest has been really strong. We recently decided to keep expanding our work by creating an actual brand (Stand N Coat) that another company many also have interest in. We are not sure if a potential industry partner will have interest in the brand that we created, but as an added measure we have secured domain names and will likely work on trademark protection as well. In the end we will be evaluating licensing deals as well as the potential for an outright acquisition by one of the leading brands.
What has been the biggest hurdle?
Worden: It is always a gamble to spend time and resources on an invention that you do not know if the end user will like. Fortunately our small team and our advisors have worked on hundreds of products over the years, so we sort of hedged our bets. We realized that while the coatings in most cans may be innovative, the traditional packaging the user is exposed to has been around for a long time and could benefit from some updating.
What’s the next step?
Worden: We have additional concepts coming soon. We recently filed for another utility patent which covers packaging for the paint, chemical, pharmaceutical, and food industries. Again we have taken a minimalist approach and reworked some design elements that have been stagnant for decades. As far as the concepts that we are now disclosing, we continue to talk to industry leaders in an effort to find a strategic partner to help us get our inventions placed into the market. If anyone has further interest we would be grateful if they contacted me via email at [email protected].
What have you learned about patent filings and about the packaging market?
Worden: We have worked on numerous patent filings over the years with both failures and successes. Intellectual property protection can be challenging, but these elements are truly needed. Frankly, so much so that if we didn't feel we could get sufficient IP protection we would have never started working up our inventions.
In regards to the packaging market, we know that it is paramount to the overall success of virtually all products. Nowadays the user has many choices in how they spend their money—it is key to understand their needs and desires as well as their pain points. Packaging can help them by demonstrating what they are looking at, and convey to them how the product will fit into their lives. If you do not get the packaging right, it is highly likely that in seconds you will lose a customer to a competitor that better anticipates the user's needs. Fortunately there are a lot of great people that take packaging really seriously. You see that now with packaging that is often cooler than the products that they contain.