Iris Bosman, founder of SQUAREplay, has submitted an i-DEPOT, registered her trademark and protected her design. Here she tells us more about the registration process.
How did you start your own business?
“I always wanted to run my own business, but I didn’t know in what exactly. I knew I wanted to do something with interiors, but I often ended up working as a salesperson in a shop, which was something I didn’t particularly want to do.
I already had a diploma in business administration, so I did the course again to bring myself up to date. I also followed a training programme with the ‘Starterslab’ through the VDAB (public employment service of Flanders, Belgium). Within a year and a half, I was able to start up a business and get a grant, with strict conditions attached. I had to go to school two days a week for the grant. It was really cool. We were all starting our own businesses and they were all very different. I attended a lot of presentations and did a lot of networking.”
How did the idea for your product come about?
“In the end, my creative moment happened when I wanted to buy something that didn’t exist yet. Being short of cash triggers creative processes that would not happen otherwise. I needed some curtains, but I have three cats who can’t leave curtains alone and were probably going to climb up them. Blinds were too expensive. So, I went to my garage and started to try to figure out a solution there, and I came up with SQUAREplay.”
Did you do any research to see if your idea was already out there?
“Well, no. Actually, I didn’t know at all. I also didn’t know how you check something like that out. Most people have heard about patents, but that wasn’t what this was about. Not everyone knows you can protect a design.”
And why did you want to register your product?
“Well, I did already know I wanted to put it on the market and that aspect was covered in my interior design course, in the sense that you had to do it, but how you went about it was unclear.”
Did you research by yourself how to register something?
“I was able to register for a number of different workshops, through the VLAIO (Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship organisation in Belgium), to find out whether my product already existed. There was a BOIP representative at those workshops who gave me further information about how I could protect my brand and my design.”
How did you come up with the name?
“That was really very difficult, and in the end I kept it really simple. You can move the squares around, rearrange them and change them individually, you see. You’re always moving columns. You can change or rotate a photo or a particular colour because it has two sides. So, it’s like a game with squares. That’s why I called it SQUAREplay.”
Was SQUAREplay the first one you registered?
“Yes, this was the first time. On 31 October 2014 I submitted an i-DEPOT. On 10 February 2015 I registered the trademark and in March the design protection.
Protecting the design meant I also had to think about the different variations. I produced one line with perforations, which gives attractive light effects. You can also choose to use a personal photo or just keep it plain, usually with acrylic glass. So how do you capture everything in a single definition to protect it? That’s why it was so difficult. In the end, we went with: squares linked together with s-hooks that you can reposition individually in columns. The different lines all fall under that, so everything is covered.”
Did you only register it in the Benelux or also for the whole of the EU?
“Only in the Benelux. And that was mainly because of cost. Things took a while to get going in the beginning. And I’d already had a lot of marketing expenses in 2017 because I took part in a TV programme. Everything had been recorded, and then a week before broadcasting they edited me out.”
Have you also had experience with other entrepreneurs or companies putting a similar design on the market?
“Yes. Later, I saw that another company has something similar, but they don’t use it as a curtain. They are decorative wall elements though, that are made up of squares that are coupled together.”
Why didn’t you do anything about it?
“It is something similar, but it’s not used as a curtain. It’s made of PVC, not acrylic glass. Provided it’s not squares used as a curtain or a sort of room divider, anyone can hang photos together.”
Do you feel your registrations were useful?
“Yes, undoubtedly. I’ve made sure my trademark and design are protected by registering them. It means I can talk more openly when I’m networking, for instance. That makes me feel safer. It also gives the client a lot more confidence in my business. It’s a proper trademark, one that’s protected.”
How are marketing and sales going now?
“Private sales are continuing, but I don’t have a production line. The SQUAREplay story is still playing out, there is more to come. I’ve been busy with renovation projects at the same time.”
Do you have any tips for other entrepreneurs?
“Yes, don’t give up! And submitting an i-DEPOT, just for an idea, is really quite quick. Because it’s true, you never know; it might well be useful later on.
And what’s going on around you, your network, is also important. It can really make a difference.
And go to a ‘Starterslab’ if possible. You start with what’s necessary. Then you do what’s possible, and all of a sudden you’re doing the impossible.”
Want to know more?
Are you looking to register your trademark or design, like Iris? Check our website for more information.