As an engineer, I simply want to work with others to design and build the most elegant structures possible. I don’t have the time or skills to market, sell, and manage distribution or customer service of a hydrofoil. With that in mind, my initial goal for this project was to license the design and technology to existing companies who have marketing budgets far bigger than my annual income and leverage their manufacturing relationships and scale. This business model, while saving some money on marketing and sales, would require a big investment in IP; I had no choice but to file a patent. After filing my provisional, I had discussions with major kite brands even before I had a prototype, hoping that they would be interested in what I was going to build, and thinking maybe they would even help finance some of the R&D costs. My hopes were quickly dashed when phone calls weren’t returned, NDAs were flouted, and proposed co-development costs were simply laughed at. No hard feelings whatsoever, in the end it worked out better this way, as it forced me to operate lean and get more creative with the design to keep costs down. Even so, my mast pricing still resulted in sticker shock to some of the brands who are used to procuring their components from Asia. At these production rates, I simply can’t offer them the margins necessary to fund those big overhead costs. And without proven demand, I’m not going to invest in tooling allowing for increased production rates and reduced unit costs.
Patents are double edged swords, especially for small companies like mine. In exchange for telling the world about your design, and paying thousands of dollars in legal and filing fees, you are offered a limited time monopoly to sell your product. I have never been on the paying side of a patent. I’ve been fortunate to work at companies that actually pay me for every patent filed on which I am a listed inventor or co-inventor. Given the size of the foil market, it was really hard to justify spending so much money on a patent. However given my desire to shift the sporting goods industry from one that is sales and marketing driven to more innovation and technology, I felt I had to file. It’s a major investment, with questionable value and payoff, but nonetheless the non-provisional patent application number 20170355429 was filed and published in December of 2017. This is a real hurdle for some businesses, and I hope the larger and foreign companies respect the intellectual property of the small guys like me.
Moving on from the legal stuff, I’m really excited to announce that Project CEDRUS has been selected as a finalist for a JEC Innovation Award. JEC Group (http://www.jeccomposites.com) is a French publication, trade show, and professional network devoted solely to the composites industry. Every year, they host a trade show in Paris called JEC World, by far the largest composites-related trade show in the world, serving aerospace, automotive, marine, consumer products, sporting goods, and any other industry currently using or looking to incorporate composite materials and manufacturing. It’s like a giant toy store for composites engineers. Through Adherend Innovations, LLC I applied with Project Cedrus to the Sports & Leisure category. Entries are evaluated on a number of metrics including health and safety, environmental impact, cost & performance, and technical innovation employing composites and advanced materials. I am honored to be a finalist in my category along with BMW Group, who spent over 3.5M Euros on a new composite motorcycle swing arm, as well as Schappes Techniques, a french company who developed a unique thermoplastic hockey stick. The winner will be announced at the JEC World event in Paris during the first week of March; stay tuned!