Why product patenting is key to Ikea’s success in Malaysia and the world

Product patenting has played a key role in solidifying Ikea’s status as the largest furniture retailer in the world. — AFP pic
Product patenting has played a key role in solidifying Ikea’s status as the largest furniture retailer in the world. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — Flatpack furniture, modernist designs, and meatballs are likely the first things to come to mind when you think of Swedish furniture retailer Ikea.

The brand has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a mail-order sales business in 1940s Älmhult and has won over consumers around the globe with its diverse catalogue of homeware and furniture.

It now has over 400 stores around the world, with four outlets right here in Malaysia.

So what’s the secret behind its international success?

One of the ways Ikea has managed to stay ahead of the game throughout the years is through product patenting which gives it exclusive rights to its inventions and designs.

In 2013, the retailer debuted the wedge dowel, which was essentially a wooden plug with ridges that allowed furniture parts to snap securely into place without the need for extra tools.

The invention revolutionised furniture assembly by reducing the time needed to put a product together by 50 to 80 per cent and a United States patent for the wedge dowel was granted in 2016 under the patent number US 9,447,804 B2.

By doing away with metal hinges and Allen keys, the wedge dowel also promotes an eco-friendly concept by minimising the number of resources and tools needed to assemble a piece of furniture.

The wedge dowel design was granted a patent in the United States in 2016, allowing Ikea to stay ahead of its competitors by offering customers a one-of-a-kind product. — Picture from Ikea Today website
The wedge dowel design was granted a patent in the United States in 2016, allowing Ikea to stay ahead of its competitors by offering customers a one-of-a-kind product. — Picture from Ikea Today website

Ikea Industry’s head of technical investments Jan-Anders Hansson believes that quick and easy furniture assembly will be a critical factor for consumers moving forward.

“When I was a child, we were out all day making tree houses, but my children spend most of their time in front of the computer or on their phones.

“If we’re going to sell furniture to them in the future, we have to make it easier to assemble Ikea products,” Hansson said in a 2016 press release about the wedge dowel.

Through patenting its invention, Ikea can mass-produce furniture with the wedge dowel while staying secure in the knowledge that they have an edge over its competitors.

In an article for Medium, IP Weekly editor Adithya Vikram Sakthivel said Ikea’s decision to patent an element of its manufacturing process (the wedge dowel) rather than individual designs (a table or chair, for example) means that while competitors can still create similar products, it won’t be able to match up to the quality of what Ikea is offering to consumers.

Producing its products in bulk means Ikea can also cut costs, leading to lower prices and higher appeal for home decor enthusiasts on a budget.

And the results certainly speak for themselves as Ikea boasted sales of over RM3.7 billion in Southeast Asia alone from September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2019.

“We make a difference to many people by making life more comfortable, more beautiful, and more sustainable at an affordable price.

“We face increasing competition in our markets and changing customer behaviour but our vision to create a better everyday life for the many people is perhaps more powerful than ever,” said Ikea Southeast Asia’s managing director Christian Rojkjaer in a press release.

In a fast-paced world where new designs are coming out onto the market by the minute, following in Ikea’s footsteps by patenting your invention is more important than ever to ensure you and your business retain a competitive advantage.

Henry Goh & Co is the leading intellectual property (IP) firm in Malaysia with strategic expertise in trademark, patent, industrial design, and copyright protection.

Getting innovators to stand out from the crowd through IP awareness is one of the firm’s key aims with their clients, both local and overseas.

To find out more about Henry Goh & Co and their services, visit their official website.

* This article is brought to you by Henry Goh & Co.

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