While browsing greeting cards in a shop recently I was amused by a card which advised ‘Hire a teenager now – while they still know everything’. Later that same day I learnt that Michael Vaga aged 19 has invented an iPhone charger that generates energy from the human body. All you need do if you have purchased one of Michael’s devices is rotate your hand to activate a gyroscope which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy which can then be used straight away or stored. How neat and what a great solution to the problem of being unable to charge a dying device just when you are expecting that all important text or email. Michael’s device which has been part funded through Kickstarter is due to go on sale in March 2017 and could be a huge success. Michael’s business like Michael himself is in a ‘teenager phase’. The business has a great new idea and knows enough to be able to make the idea into a product but there is still lots to learn – not least of course about the world of intellectual property. Most likely Michael will have made a patent application to try and protect the concept of using mechanical energy to generate electrical energy in this context. This idea is not new (think Trevor Baylis and his wind up radio developed initially for the African market) but the manner in which Michael has reached his solution may be. Michael will also need to think about protecting the brand. HandEnergy the current name – does what it says on the tin but is not very distinctive and not therefore the best trade mark. Now the product has been disclosed Michael also needs to make decisions about whether to secure registrations to protect the shape of the device. At this stage Michael needs help to identify the issues and put in place the basic protections that he will need if he is to successfully develop his business in a way which ensures that he benefits fully from his talents. If the product is a great success many others will try copy and Michael will only be able to tackle that effectively if he has taken the right steps in his teenager phase. Many teenage businesses come to see us for a #BriffaWay Meeting and I see our role very much like that of a parent to a teenager, guiding and advising so that we equip our teenage businesses with the knowledge and skills they need to flourish and achieve their full potential.
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