The Instant Pot® was created to solve a cooking challenge that busy people face: how to quickly put a healthy, delicious meal on the table after a long day of work or study. The product has struck a chord. It has been the best-selling item in its category on Amazon in the last five years and now boasts a Facebook community of 1.6 million users.
For millions of customers, the Instant Pot is a must-have. But what is the must-have for the company behind the Instant Pot? A solid intellectual property (IP) strategy.
The company's success
The Instant Pot is a smart cooker that functions as a rice cooker, sauté pan, pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker and steamer. The Instant Pot is also eco-friendly, using less energy by cooking faster than similar products and reducing heat in the kitchen.
Word-of-mouth powerfully contributed to the Instant Pot's success, and this phenomenon has spilled over into the social media world. In the Instant Pot Community Facebook group, participants share their experiences with using the product, including opening or "unboxing" their new Instant Pot purchase, trying out recipes and sharing pictures and videos of their food. The product has started a new cooking culture.
The company is completely innovation-driven, according to Robert Wang, the founder and CEO of Instant Brands Inc., the parent company of Instant Pot. A new generation of Instant Pot rolls out every 12 to 18 months; the product is currently on its eighth generation.
"As soon as we come out with a new design, we apply for intellectual property," says Wang.
Instant Brands on Canada's accession to the Hague Agreement:
"The process of registering for industrial design in other countries can be costly and time consuming. A simpler and more efficient filing process that protects products in multiple countries is a big win for Canadian companies like ours. That's why we are so pleased that Canada acceded to the Hague Agreement."
Perspective on IP
Patent applications for the Instant Pot were first made in 2013, in both Canada and the United States. Now, the company also owns industrial designs, patents and trademarks in Europe, Africa and Asia. The company's IP portfolio includes its trademarks, the patents for the technology behind the products and registered industrial designs protecting the style and look of the products.
For Instant Brands, officially protecting its IP is a cost-effective way to protect its products from copycats. Unfortunately, the Instant Pot's parts have been frequently copied illegally. IP rights have helped the company win legal battles against imitators.
"Some of our products were not protected as industrial designs in the early days. There were people who copied (our products) and we learnt the lesson," says Wang. "We have since been taking IP protection very seriously."
The Instant Pot's growth strategy is tied directly to its IP. The multicooker industry is growing rapidly, and many new products like the Instant Pot have entered the competition. Protecting and registering IP allows Instant Brands to continue to upgrade its product lines and discourage imitators. Instant Brands is dedicated to research and development in order to continue thriving as the industry leader.
What is Robert Wang's advice to small or medium-sized Canadian enterprises? "All enterprises should have their products protected as IP. Pay attention as to how to protect your IP, and register (for IP) on time," says Wang.
Are you inspired to protect your products and ideas? Visit the IP for business page on how to develop an IP strategy for success.