Ride2Work Day: What role has intellectual property played in the success of the Brompton folding bike?
Published on 17 Oct, 2018
It’s that time of the year again: it’s National Ride2Work Day (Wednesday 17 October 2018). With this in mind, I thought I’d take the opportunity to show my appreciation for my favourite way to travel to work: the Brompton folding bicycle. I take a brief look at the bike and the role of intellectual property in its success.
What is a Brompton bike?
The Brompton folding bicycle was invented by Cambridge University graduate Andrew Ritchie in 1975 and named after the Brompton Oratory in South Kensington, London, which his flat overlooked. It folds conveniently into a compact package and, despite its small wheel size, displays surprising acceleration and nimble handling. Designed for commuters, this iconic bike is popular the world over.
Intellectual property protection
Patents provide protection for inventions which are new, inventive and useful. The original Brompton patent (EP 0 026 800 B1) was filed in 1979. This patent has long expired, so how is intellectual property contributing the continuing success of the Brompton?
These days, whilst the manufacturing of certain parts or processes is outsourced, the core production work is still carried out at Brompton’s UK factory. The manufacturing is complex and the company designs all of its own tooling. Keeping this know how within the company makes the bike difficult to copy and helps to keep the company a step ahead of potential competitors.
Brompton Bicycle Limited has a collection of registered designs for various bike parts, such as brakes and grips, registered in the UK and Europe. These registered designs protect how the parts look.
The company also owns several internationally registered trade marks, including the word mark “Brompton” and an instantly recognizable picture mark consisting of 3 bikes, stylized, in unfolded, partially folded and fully folded configurations.
Each trade mark acts as a “badge of origin”, identifying the source of Brompton bikes, parts and accessories and related services.
Interestingly, Brompton Bicycle Limited does not advertise. Its marketing philosophy is to produce a great product that its customers love and to let its happy customers spread the word. And it works … arguably this article is one example!