Photo provided by the Design Center of the Philippines: Currently, Pinyapel sheets, sized 70 x 100 centimeters, are produced by hand, and sold by CDO Handmade Paper Crafts, one of Design Center's partners and the processor of discarded pineapple leaves into Pinyapel sheets.

The IP journey of Pinyapel: From creation to going global

As part of the global pursuit to save the earth, the packaging industry, the biggest contributor to the plastic economy, is given a tall order: do away with plastics, completely and immediately. 

In each passing day, the global plastic pollution problem continues to grow more worrisome  notwithstanding the widespread adoption of policies and emergence of a slew of solutions in the aims of at least cutting our current production of 300 million tonnes, as estimated by the United Nations Environment. Failing to stem this production level will only accelerate the pace of climate change, and cause our oceans to be filled with more plastics than fish come 2050, experts have warned. 

The task is overwhelming but not impossible. The Design Center of the Philippines fervently believed this when it took on a yearlong research to convert pineapple leaves into a specialty paper for food packaging purposes, a product that gained global attention when it bagged last October the iconic Wood Pencil at the D&AD Impact Awards in recognition of its Pinyapel Project’s potential to have a significant impact on the environment while maintaining product sustainability. 

“The ambition of the Pinyapel is to replace the take-out food containers while maximizing the use of agricultural waste to improve the livelihood of farmers. We want Pinyapel to be part of the compost bin that can be used to fertilize the soil, make it richer. So instead of continuing the traditional economic practice of taking out from the earth, we are able to give back to the earth, making as a responsible practice to preserve the earth for future generations,” Design Center Executive Director Rhea O. Matute said.

Public-private partnerships as key

As early as at the ideation stage, Design Center had mapped out ways to succeed in commercialization. 

The attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry identified the supply and value chain for the project to ensure that there are ready adaptors of the Pinyapel, as well as the sustainability of its development. 

To this end, the Design Center forged a tripartite memorandum of agreement with the CDO Handmade Paper Crafts Co. and Ideatechs Packaging Corp. who were identified as crucial in the materialization of Pinyapel. The agency also partnered with Nature’s Fresh Pineapples, Inc. for the supply of raw materials. 

“Pinyapel development seeks to inspire and encourage government agencies and the private sectors to collaborate in order to have commercialization opportunities through adoption of developed processes and products. Partnerships could also pave the way for the implementation of circular design strategies such as choosing inputs, thinking locally, extending product’s life and closing the loop,” Matute said. 

Central to the development of the Pinyapel paper is the corrugating machine of Ideatechs Packaging Corp. The machine provided the paper, which has thermoformable property, with heat and pressure to turn it into a usable material. 

Amid limited resources, the agency was able to speed up its research and development, and even managed to produce three formulations for Pinyapel, thanks mostly to its partners who allowed Design Center to use their factories and equipment. 

Capturing value thru utility models

Following the successful experimentation, the specialty paper was ready for the market. But before its full roll out, Design Center signed up its Pinyapel for protection as a utility model. 

“Pinyapel was registered as a utility model to protect the process and product generated by the collaborative effort. As a government agency and an Innovation and Technology Support Office partner of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, it is important to register the development not just for protection but more importantly because disclosure of the step-by-step process in our IP document could spark innovation that would inspire anyone with technical know-how to innovate further so the cycle of innovation will be continuous,” Matute added. 

The Design Center has been part of IPOPHL’s growing ITSO network since 2012, committed to fostering a culture that thrives in design creativity, value creation, and innovation. It has filed at IPOPHL over 230 utility models and industrial designs. 

Pinyapel eyes transition to patent 

Photo provided by the Design Center of the Philippines: Design Center said, Ideatechs Packaging Corp., one of its partners in the Pinyapel Project, has received inquiries for the paper to be used for retail packaging and also for use in the paper cups and food containers in certain events.

“Although protection for a utility model is shorter, it is generally cheaper to obtain and maintain and has less stringent patentability requirements. Utility models provide micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs a low-cost and easy entry point to go global,” Matute said. 

Nonetheless, the Design Center envisions further upgrading its product, with hopes of seeing it registered as a patent. This is in line with its strategy of utilizing all possible tools in the IP system. In fact, last November, days after it bagged the Wood Pencil, Design Center filed at the IPOPHL to apply protection for the “pinyapel” word mark. 

“Further development is ongoing for Pinyapel and at the same time we will be launching new developments on different materials by next year,” the Matute said. (IPOPHL)

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