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Imitation

KeepCup vs KeepCopy- Is Imitation the Highest Form of Flattery?

Good design has the potential to change behaviours, disrupt established markets or create entirely new ones. When Cobalt started working with KeepCup 10 years ago, we could only dream that it would resonate as much as it has, and launch a whole new product category of barista-standard reusable cups.

However, with success comes others who are bound to take notice.

KeepCup certainly didn’t invent the concept of a reusable cup, but our design and KeepCup’s unwavering drive definitely made it ‘cool’ to bring your own reusable cup to a cafe.

Before Cobalt designed the KeepCup, the few reusable cups the few that existed looked more suited to a picnic than something you’d walk into work with. Once it was clear KeepCup had tapped an unmet need, it wasn’t long before similar products appeared on the market.

Last year, KeepCup called-out coffee giant Gloria Jean’s for copying.
Cobalt developed the original KeepCup Brew, the first ever reusable coffee cup with a commercial quality tempered glass body, natural cork band and overmoulded lid. Gloria Jean, instead of investing in their own design or innovation, took the questionable route of releasing a product that was a dead ringer for KeepCup’s.

A Fight for (Intellectual Property) Rights

KeepCup’s managing director Abigail Forsyth told Broadsheet, “The case boiled down to conduct which causes confusion in the minds of consumers, exploiting the reputation of KeepCup’s products and market presence to take sales. It’s a classic ‘piggybacking’ case.”

Fortunately on this occasion, justice prevailed and Gloria Jean’s removed their ‘KeepCopy’ from sale. But unfortunately, others have and will continue to follow in their footsteps.

In any market, competition is important- it prevents monopoly, and encourages competitors to provide the best product and value to the market. However, when competition involves blatant copying, there are no long-term winners.

Sure, consumers may be attracted by a lower price, but all races to the bottom eventually result in quality so poor, and innovation so thin that consumers are left dissatisfied.

To be clear, Cobalt supports competition including genuine benchmarking where the best products are analysed so they can be improved upon.  And that’s the difference; good design demands real improvement and uniqueness, which is diametrically opposed to a cheap ‘rip-off’ approach.

Despite the boom in this new category, KeepCup is happy to share the market, as long as their competitors aren’t directly plagiarising their products. Back in 2012, KeepCup’s founder Abigail Forsyth told Dumbo Feather magazine, “what KeepCup is about is getting people to stop using disposable coffee cups, so it’s fantastic if anyone makes a product who can help with that”

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Cobalt Case Study: Helping Move Designers Towards Diplomas

Nelson Product Design & Technology Textbook

A Cobalt Case Study: Moving Designers Towards Diplomas

Here at Cobalt, we believe design should improve the world we live in. We do this in many ways; sustainable practices, socially responsible design, and using our technical know-how to solve practical problems.

We also believe that educating future generations to be design-aware is crucial to a better tomorrow. With this in mind, we were thrilled to be asked to contribute to the principal VCE text book on product design & technology.

For those outside of Victoria (or even outside of Australia), VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education) is the certificate which students receive on completion of their secondary education. Year 11 and 12 students must pass their VCE classes to receive their final scores for their secondary education- which is where textbooks become especially important.

The textbook (Nelson Product Design and Technology, for VCE units 1-4, 4th Edition) was written by Jill Livett and Jacinta O’Leary and published for the start of the 2018 academic year. The book is a comprehensive collection of information and exercises for VCE students studying Product Design, covering topics such as design thinking, sustainable design, materials and the design process. On top of this, the book also features a case study on Cobalt Design.

Cobalt’s contribution includes the importance of teamwork, design briefs, discovering user needs, and transitioning from design through to engineering and production. Whilst these are all areas discussed elsewhere in the textbook, Cobalt’s 20 years of real world experience provided tangible examples to all these concepts.

The textbook also includes a specific look at the design process Cobalt used to design the latest KeepCup- the KeepCup Brew, describing how it progressed from initial sketches to a final glass and cork product. This case-study covers more detailed elements such as divergent thinking, iterative prototyping and even the thought process behind the specific materials used in the product, to give students insights to inspire and accelerate their studies.

Cobalt Principal Steve Martinuzzo was also asked about his personal experiences including what he liked about designing products. “I like working as part of a team, and seeing our staff grow and be their best” he said, “I get real satisfaction in finding a new approach that makes an everyday product or process a little easier- or even more enjoyable- to use”

The textbook is now the prescribed text book for VCE Product Design & Technology classes, and is available for purchase for upcoming students- or for anyone with a keen interest in the fascinating world of design.

Nelson Product Design & Technology VCE Units 1-4 4th Edition is published by Cengage Learning Australia

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