Tupperware is a prominent player in the household goods sector, through the retail of its range of storage containers and kitchenware. Founded in the United States in 1946 by
Earl Tupper, Tupperware has been a household name for over 60 years. The company expanded into Australia in 1951, with revenue reaching $26.0 million in 2013. The success of Tupperware has undoubtedly been founded on protecting a strong brand – a combination of IP protection afforded by Patents, Trade Marks and Trade Secrets. This article looks at three types of intellectual property protection and how you can apply the same protection to your invention.

The Patented “Burping Seal”

In 1946, the inventor of Tupperware Earl S. Tupper filed four design patent applications. In 1954, he received a patent for the “burping seal”. The Tupperware seal was inspired from paint can lids, a way to keep food air-tight and from spoiling. Since the onset of Tupperware, there have been thousands of patents for food storage, preparation and serving products. Why did Tupperware’s patents contribute to its household name status? For the period of each of its patients, being 20 years, Tupperware could exclusively make its products and keep other plastic container companies from infringing on its design. This patent and safeguard for Tupperware’s intellectual property is the reason the product has remained unique and well known. A patent is crucial if you plan to invent a product that is unique and new.

IP Protection: Branding and Trade Secrets

Despite each of Tupperware’s patents running out, Tupperware can rest on the protection provided by its trade marks and trade secrets. The Tupperware brand is an invaluable marketing tool and asset. The identity of the product range relies on the exclusive use to use the trade mark for the sale of the containers and kitchen goods. Tupperware can prevent other brands who manufacture similar products from using their name or a similar mark.

Trade Secrets are also important to protect the brand beyond the lifetime of a patent. In this case, Tupperware would ensure employees sign confidentiality agreements preventing design, marketing and sales strategies from leaving the office.

Protection against Counterfeits

Tupperware has a problem against counterfeits entering Australia from China from eBay resellers. While this is illegal, and countries with strong IP laws can prevent counterfeits from being sold, it is up to the Tupperware brand to dispute the counterfeits with legal action. At first instance, a “Cease and Desist” letter would be issued by Tupperware and if the demands were not complied with the legal action may ensue.

IP is important for creating a brand that will eventually allow your brand to flourish like the empire that is now Tupperware. If you have any questions about protecting your IP, whether it be through a trade mark, trade secret or patent, get in touch with your IP lawyers.

Sophie Glover

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