From a Trivial Everyday Problem to Success with IP

Simone Giacobbe

From a Trivial Everyday Problem to Success with IP

The fourth in our IP for SMEs series, we look at how many inventions and smart ideas are solutions to challenges faced in everyday life. 

In this article, we discuss the hiking shoe, and how one inventor made it his mission to improve comfort for his fellow hikers.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Reno (Nevada) in summer can be a pretty hot place, and hiking in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada is a challenge to your feet, constrained in thick hiking shoes with heavy soles.

Mr. Mario Poletti Polegato, born in 1952 near Treviso in north-eastern Italy, was one such hiker. In the early 90s, he was in Reno on a business trip for his family’s winery, and at one point during a hike, he had enough of the burning sensation in his feet and decided to act. He took his Swiss Army Knife and poked a few holes in the sole of his shoes. The relief was immediate!

Mr Mario Poletti Polegato
Mr. Mario Poletti Polegato - source: www.mastershoe.co.uk

Stepping Forward

Once back home he decided to abandon the family business to further pursue his brilliant and simple idea. The conundrum was, how can I let sweat escape the sole but avoid wet feet when it rains?

The first step forward was when he found a way to micro-perforate the sole only around where the sweat glands are: since water molecules are a lot smaller than water droplets, the breathing dry shoe was invented!

IP Kicks In

After registering his first patent, he tried to sell it to major shoe manufacturers, particularly in the sports sector, but no-one seemed to be impressed by the idea. After so many “no thanks”, he decided to start his own shoe manufacturing company, with the help of five engineers and the support of the Universitá di Padova. The five engineers are still in the Company.

The next step was, of course, to name the company and register the trademark. The name - we all know it! It’s Geox, from the Greek geo (hearth) and the letter X, representing the x-factor in his production, technology. The logo changed with time - from a first, joyful font (remember the joy he experienced in Reno…).

Geox Logo 1
Source: 1000logos.net

To the font we know now, which we all now associate with comfort and elegance, at the same time.

Geox Logo 2
Source: 1000logos.net

Never Stop Innovating

Then came the internal membrane. Mr. Poletti Pegato soon came across Teflon® (polytetrafluoroethylene, PTFE), a material that was invented by accident in 1938 and was finding more and more industrial uses beyond NASA, since the 1950s. Teflon is uniquely able to insulate from wide temperature ranges and allows transpiration to escape through the outsole to create a completely dry and balanced temperature around the foot.

Climbing to New Heights

He did not stop there, today the brand has expanded into the leather sole industry, where it brings together technological comfort and Italian elegance, and into the outwear sector. The technology is covered by over 60 patents including the ones for the most recent NEBULA™, Amphibiox and Aerantis technologies.

Geox quickly became the first Italian company in the casual footwear sector with 30,000 thousand employees and 1,150 stores in 114 countries. Starting from a few holes in the sole of an old hiking shoe made with a Swiss Army Knife, through a clever use of technology and accompanied by a smart and continuing IP strategy and trademark protection, Geox has become synonymous with quality, comfort, and performance.

What can we learn from Geox?

First of all, the story of Geox teaches (and, in the negative, the story of Bialetti), the first success must be followed by continuous development, lest a technological development (by a competitor?) overtakes the scene.

Secondly, is the importance of a comprehensive and smart IP strategy. Making use of all of the appropriate IP tools , whether that be patents (and utility models, where possible), trademarks to uniquely associate a brand to some desirable characteristics like quality and comfort, and design, to allow for quick identification of the brand and finally, copyrights and where needed and reasonable, trade secrets. All of these different forms of IP, and the protection they provide have enabled companies like Geox to continue to develop their product, expand into new markets and make the steps from an idea to an SME and finally to large corporation.

Want to know more? Ask our experts at Murgitroyd. We are present in all the most important markets in Europe.

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