IP Protection Enhances Local Firms' Competitiveness Patented Hot Pants' British Cycling Team's Secret to Win
The British cycling team has in 2012 London Olympic Games won 7 gold medals, thanks to the athletes' undeniable efforts. However, the new apparel referred to as “Hot Pants” they wore also cannot be ignored. The Adidas Adipower apparel they wore, that incorporates Firetronic HEATwear FIR, was said could warm the muscles of the riders before they train and race. Hong Kong-based Fibretronic was the company that owns intellectual property rights of this “Hot Pants”, and was invited by sports brand Adidas in 2011 to develop such technology for the British Olympic team to bring in explosive power and enhance athletes' performance.
Fibretronic has applied exclusive patent rights for such technology to avoid plagiarisation and increase their competitiveness. Patented Technology Wins International Brands' Attention Fibretronic was founded in 2004, specializing in developing products that are designed specifically for garments and electronic devices integration, as well as the manufacturing of washable garments that have electronic functions, such as music player buttons on the integration of wind jacket, easy to use home control switch, volume and song selection. The technology later even extended to Bluetooth and electric technology, and used on more clothing after registered the patent rights. Issac Man, General Manager of Fibretronic, said a patent application for the assembly technology, not only can protect their technology from plagiarization but also could attract business from big firms. With a number of patented technologies, the Hong Kong company has teamed up with international brands such as North Face and at the same time build awareness and acceptability within the industry.
Patent Protection is Key while Fast Application is Needed
Man said that the British cycling team was demanding both on the fabric quality and its heating function. They requested the temperature to be set 15 degree higher than past heating products, while the thickness of the fabric used need to be around 1 to 2 mm, which was also 2.5 mm thinner than the fabric they previous used. Furthermore, the heating area is 4 times of what they usually produced. Man said although this means a greater challenge it also has become the masterpiece of its patented products. As the assembly technology is what the company relied on as bread and butter of their business, patent protection has become a serious matter. “Once we have the new design idea, we will research the market to confirm if there were similar products and whether we could apply for exclusive patent rights,” Man said. "When the patent application completed, clients will not shift to other manufacturers easily or to develop similar product."
"We will do our best to apply for patents for each product. The process will start once the design work begins, details of whole design will be submitted further after completion. However, that does not necessarily mean you would get the patent at the end." Issac Man said the company has in the past developed a sports heartbeat band, despite the design is totally different, another company has fast in registering similar functions. Fibretronic therefore failed to patent its technology and has lost European and US clients' interests. It well demonstrates the fact that products have not yet marketed may actually have been patented.
Capitalising Hong Kong's R&D Personnel
Man noted the production of these smart garments requires professional knowledge, high level of skills in design and production, as well as greater flexibility and R&D expertise. As Hong Kong engineers are renowned for their great adaptability, Fibretronic decided to locate its R&D department here.
Caption: Fibretronic General Manager Issac Man said, to apply patent for self-developed assembly technology not only can protect their technology from plagiarization but also attract businesses from big firms.
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