Breaking the Box Mold

19 June 2024

Sustainable Packaging from the perspective of Manel López, founder and CEO of Capsa Packaging

4iP Council feature interview with Manel López, founder of CAPSA PackagingManel López, founder of Capsa®

We had the opportunity to interview Manel López, the founder and CEO of Capsa Packaging, our newest member at 4iP Council. With their Capsa 2in1® product, they have created a new generation of boxes: more efficient, with better user experience, and more sustainable.  Not all inventions need to be high tech, there is a lot to learn from companies like Capsa.

What brought you to where you are today?

First of all, I want to thank you for this interview. I am excited to share my experience in intellectual property and to let our audience learn more about CAPSA PACKAGING.

To answer your question, I sometimes surprise myself at how I have managed to overcome so many challenges as an entrepreneur. I believe the excitement of achieving something unique is such a powerful motivation that becomes a blind faith, driving you forward. I would sum it up as “PERSEVERANCE AND DETERMINATION TO ACHIEVE A DREAM”.

What makes your packaging different from others?

I will explain it simply. The world of packaging, especially cardboard boxes, is very diverse, with many designs for different needs, such as boxes for bottles, food, cosmetics, etc. Conventional single-use boxes are made to contain, protect, and ship products, ending up in the recycling bin after their use. However, no standard box allows for practical and functional reopening and closing after its first use without getting damaged or torn during handling. 

As shown in the image, the CAPSA 2in1® box solves this common and inconvenient issue found in traditional boxes, allowing it to be easily reopened and closed without breaking. This makes the box reusable for both storage and shipping. That is why we call our solution 2-in-1: it allows you to repeatedly perform both functions—shipping and storing—with the same box. This was my invention: reinventing the "cardboard box," which had remained the same for over a hundred years!Capsa 2in1 Boxes solutionCAPSA 2in1® box sustainable solution comparison

We appreciate how innovative (and sustainable) you have been with boxes. It makes us think that many other daily products could be more efficient or sustainable. What are your thoughts on this?

Absolutely! The hardest part is reinventing basic everyday objects like a cardboard box. There is still a lot of room for improvement in everyday products. Current entrepreneurship is heavily focused on software, and few people stop to look at other problems that need solving. A significant part of pollution comes from the extraction and processing of raw materials, so we need to think more about reuse to reduce the consumption of resources, energy, and water. If we look at the products we use and discard daily, we will realize that it is not sustainable. Just take a look at our trash bins to see the amount of waste we generate.

"I always associated inventors with geniuses, and since I was young, I dreamed of inventing something that would benefit society"

How much did you know about intellectual property before starting your company?

I knew nothing about intellectual property; I only knew the word "inventor." I always associated inventors with geniuses, and since I was young, I dreamed of inventing something that would benefit society. My first steps into this fascinating world began with the invention of a plastic piece for transporting clothes in cardboard boxes. I took my first prototype to an intellectual property agent to understand what I needed to do to protect my invention, and that's where it all began. From that experience, I only understand innovation based on intellectual property.

How was the process of patenting your 'Capsa 2in1' solution?

It was a long and challenging process. There are thousands of cardboard box designs, and proving that the Capsa 2in1® box was truly a new invention was a significant challenge. Cardboard boxes are based on sheets of corrugated cardboard with cuts and folds, so at first glance, it might seem like there is nothing new, since cuts and folds exist in all cardboard boxes.

After several rejections from the examiners, my European agent Alfons Femenia and I decided to present our invention orally at the European Patent Office (EPO). Thanks to the prototypes we presented and an excellent auxiliary request, we managed to convince them and obtained the patent in Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and China, among others.

I have secured three of my main patents through oral proceedings. One thing is clear: for my future patent applications, I will need to prove once again in oral proceedings that cardboard boxes can continue to be reinvented. This demonstrates that if an inventor believes in their invention, they must pursue their goals to the very end!

"Intellectual property (...) safeguards our innovations, enables us to establish a licensing-based business model, and positions us as an innovative company"

How important is intellectual property for your company today?

Intellectual property plays a crucial role in our business strategy. It safeguards our innovations, enables us to establish a licensing-based business model, and positions us as an innovative company.

Our boxes are easily replicable due to the cuts and folds I mentioned earlier. If we didn't patent our inventions, we could spend months, even years, developing a disruptive innovation solution only to see it copied in the market shortly after. But that is not all; in addition to patenting, designing an excellent business strategy around intellectual property is essential.

I want to thank Carles Puente, co-founder of Fractus and inventor of fractal antennas, for his strategic mentorship. His first lesson, contrary to my initial stance, was that I should share my inventions with the industry as soon as possible. So now, the best advice I can give to inventors is to share their patents through licensing to generate business and monetize their inventions.

Capsa reusable boxCapsa 2in1® reusable box

We have heard that you had to defend your patents in court, and it ended favorably. Could you share more details? Was this a significant challenge for you and your intellectual property team?

Yes, we litigated in Spain, and not only did we win the case against the other party, but we also had our patents validated. It was a challenge to face a large company, but intellectual property is our core business, and we had no other option. The defendant company was aware of our licensing program. It was absurd on their part to copy us instead of manufacturing our boxes with whoever offered them the best conditions. Litigation should always be the last resort in any intellectual property strategy. It involves many risks, the costs are very high, and it causes significant personal strain. However, if the other party fails to understand that the licensing program is a win-win for everyone, we must go all the way and defend ourselves in court.

I also want to emphasize the need to expedite the judicial system regarding patent litigation in Spain, as six years of legal battles are excessive. The system should be more efficient to protect companies that base their strategy on innovation.

What does "sustainability" mean to you?

For me, sustainability encompasses everything we do in our professional and personal lives that produces long-term social, economic, and environmental benefits. The difference between the past and the present is that now we focus more on aligning social and environmental goals with economic ones, rather than solely generating economic profit.

"Without innovation, there is no future, so I encourage everyone with an innovative spirit to keep creating with determination"

What advice would you give to other innovators?

Without innovation, there is no future, so I encourage everyone with an innovative spirit to keep creating with determination. It is crucial to contribute innovations to collaborative economy systems, as working together allows us to achieve more. It is also important to surround yourself with people who have had both positive and negative experiences in the field of intellectual property.

How do you think we, as a society, should promote innovation in such an important sector as logistics and packaging?

Innovation in logistics and packaging must focus on developing systems for reuse and reducing packaging materials, as well as improving efficiency and cost savings. Another key point is reducing the carbon footprint in all logistics operations. According to an independent environmental impact study, reusing the same Capsa 2in1® box six times results in an 80% reduction in carbon footprint compared to using six conventional boxes, assuming a distance of 50 km.

What are your plans for the future of Capsa Packaging?

My vision is to grow CAPSA PACKAGING by expanding our team and bringing our innovations to other countries, especially the United States, where respect for intellectual property is greater. I hope that Europe will soon have a more efficient patent system. We will continue to innovate and will soon launch new packaging solutions to the market.


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