My wife and I are expecting our first child. After hearing countless parenthood war stories, we understand that we need all the help we can get. Luckily, baby tech is booming. Over the last few years, several brilliant products emerged, designed to alleviate some of the centuries-old unresolved challenges of parenthood. As an engineer and a patent attorney, I genuinely enjoy researching cutting-edge technologies. When this state-of-the-art tech has potential to make me a better father, it captivates my undivided attention. So, over the last few months, I’ve learned quite a bit about the infant tech industry. Not surprisingly, as a result of my research, I noticed that the most successful infant tech companies strategically use patents to dominate their respective market sectors.
Smart bassinet patents
Almost every new or expectant parent has heard of the Snoo. This smart bassinet promises to prolong precious infant sleep by automatically rocking and shushing a fussy infant, without parent intervention. Interestingly, although the design of the product has remained unchanged since its launch, the price and popularity have been steadily climbing. The reason for this trend, which seemingly defines the fundamental principles of marketplace economics, is lack of any meaningful competitors. Although this may seem perplexing to an economist, to a patent attorney the answer is apparent: such market dominance is generally a result of good patent protection. After a bit digging, I confirmed my expectation. Over the last decade, the Happiest Baby company built a patent portfolio for its smart bassinet, associated accessories, and the smartphone app. Prudently, this patent portfolio includes both utility patents and design patents.
Clearly, the investment into this patent portfolio is bearing fruit. The Snoo smart bassinet dominates the market with no viable competition in sight.
Magnetic onesie patent
Another interesting infant product category is clothing. While an outsider may think that all onesies are more or less the same, a new parent knows that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. One key distinction between onesies is the fastening mechanism. For example, there are snap buttons, hook-and-loop fasteners, regular zippers, reverse zippers, double zippers… However, one type of onesie stands out from this crowded field: the onesie with magnetic snaps. This seemingly trivial, but very useful innovation, commands much higher prices and prime display positions in most infant clothing boutiques. As my wife and I looked at these garments, we noticed that every magnetic onesie appears to originate from the same company: Magnetic Me. Curious about the lack of diversity in this sector, I turned to a patent database. As expected, Magnetic Me retains its dominant market position by investing into patent protection.
Smart sock patents
Another innovative infant tech category pertains to wearables. This sector is dominated by a company called Owlet. This company offers a smart sock that detects an infant’s blood oxygen level and heartbeat. If either falls outside the ideal range, the parents are alerted via a smartphone app. Like other products discussed in this post, this smart sock enjoys sustained market dominance at premium pricing, with no meaningful competition. Once again, a quick patent search revealed a patent portfolio that includes both utility and design patents.
Infant technology companies that invest into patent protection enjoy sustained market domination. Conversely, many companies that overlook patents and fail to timely build a patent portfolio often get overtaken by the competition. Thus, the moral of the story is simple: when an invention is patent-worthy, it is worth to get a patent.