Nigel Guyot , inventor of Tubemate and North Shore real estate agent talks to Gill South
My invention is called Tubemate and is a sliding tube squeezer which works on all types of tube (metal or plastic) and can be used by all ages.
The story begins whilst I was flatting with my sister in the UK and I discovered that she was a 'top squeezer' of the toothpaste tube. I don't know how many of you love this habit but I figured I had much better things to do with my time than straighten up the tube every time I used it. So I created a solution and called it Tubemate.
One of my first thoughts was that Tubemate should be able to carry a picture or a message and shouldn't break or get dirty. I made my first Tubemates out of wood, then perspex and now (20 per cent recycled) poly-ethylene.
The collector and corporate images were developed to their current stage, a high quality photographic image which won't rub or wash off. Since then I have had loads of fun putting both corporate and collector images on Tubemate and best of all pretty much everyone using Tubemate is enjoying the result.
Telling people about it
I started by knocking on residential doors in the Hamilton area and their reaction was great. They loved the idea. I have since sold 1.6 million of them and it won Best Gift at the 2004 Toronto Gift Fair.
I haven't used YouTube as yet, mainly because I haven't made time to put something together and load it. I want to get some footage of an arthritis sufferer or disabled person using Tubemate to show its versatility and superiority over its competition.
I used the direct approach to the market by people taking Tubemate out there and selling it to end users, retailers to sell on and wholesaler distributors.
Around 1995, I also went on local television in Hamilton area on a show and tell type sales show called Market Place. This cost about $750. The TV station got quite a number of letters into the station requesting the product. They forwarded those to me and also commented that they had never seen a reaction like this to a product.
I was moulding my website into the rear of the product but in the initial position it was being covered up by any tube which was in it so I also moulded it into a visible area. This started to generate enquiries from all over the world. It still does, and the latest country to begin is Brazil while the latest enquiry is from Sweden.
Protecting the IP
I spent a lot of money on the patent using a patent attorney, James and Wells. Would I do that again? Maybe. A patent is only as strong as the amount of money you, or the people you have managed to sell the rights to, have to throw at defending it. With a small item like this I possibly wouldn't do it again.
Just because the people who would copy it will do that anyway until you tell them legally to stop. I would recommend people search to see if their idea has been done before, prior to beginning the passionate journey of re-inventing the wheel. You can do this yourself by going to all the patent sites on the web. IPONZ, USPTO, ipaustralia etc.
Life goes on
At this time I am a enjoying working as a real estate agent on the North Shore and Tubemate is ticking away in the background doing its 'kiwi ingenuity' thing whilst allowing me to be with my family rather than away selling to new markets.