The U.S. economy may be sputtering, consumer confidence is tanking, and food and energy prices are at all-time highs. But there’s one company that sees a silver lining in all this gloomy news. Tupperware, the 62-year old company famous for its plastic food storage products, knows that when times are bad, it’s sales go up. People still have to eat, after all, and they need a safe way to store their leftovers.
Earl S. Tupper (1907-1983), the company’s founder and namesake, had patented several small inventions (comb case, shoe heel) before he found success in plastic containers. On October 5, 1946 he filed four design patent applications for a sugar bowl (D156855), pitcher (D154348) and pitcher covers (D158155 and D156854), which were issued between 1949-1950. A year later, a paint can lid inspired him to design an air-tight container for food. In 1954, Tupper received his first patent for container specifically designed for food (2695645).
Tupperware has received thousands of patents (mostly design patents) on food storage, preparation and serving products. In 1969, Tupperware was sold to Rexall Drugs, which later became Dart Industries. All Tupperware patents since the early 1970s have been assigned to Dart. Both Tupperware and Dart are now based in Orlando, Florida.
Curious to know which if any of Tupperware’s patents currently limit development of products by other firms. I noticed today at the store that there are many alternative companies selling similar products. It is a highly competitive industry. Anyone seems to be free to make a tupperware-like product. And yet Tupperware is still at the top of their game, right? It seems to raise real questions about the need to patents on such products in the first place. >>Comments?
Yes, the plastic storage container market is highly competitive. Most of Tupperware’s patents are design patents, which don’t offer much protection. Tupperware’s real value is in its trademarks and brand goodwill. Design patents have never been very popular with companies until the last few years. Consumers are now more aware of design (thanks to Target, Martha Stewart, etc.) and companies are filing more design applications. The number has doubled in the last ten years.
being a crazy Tupperware consumer and someone who lives the product, I know some more details. The consumers buy Tupperware because of its lifetime warranty (albeit conditional lifetime warranty) and its durability. Other companies do not come even close, even at a more expensive price. Also, the way it is marketed make ladies want more, more and MORE of these things. Take a look at the catalog, see how the sale will hook you to buy things that you “may need”.