When starting out in business, there are a million and one things to think about. One that can often get overlooked is the protection of designs. It is essential to have protection on all business designs, and it’s something that businesses often don’t think about until it’s far too late.
I learnt this the hard way with Redsbaby, the pram and baby product company I co-founded with my husband Brett in 2013. In the very early days of the business, another company copied our entire product line. A factory, which we had used unsuccessfully before finding our current manufacturer, had teamed up with another Australian brand and started producing a range based on our design and specs. We were distraught, but rather than pursuing a long and expensive legal battle, we decided to instead change our design and spend money on protecting our new and improved version, produced by our current manufacturer.
Although it was a long and somewhat irritating process, in hindsight it was a valuable lesson for us of the dangers of not protecting our business designs. It also enabled us to improve and perfect our design and to put an even better product out into the market.
Reflecting on this experience, here are my top tips on Intellectual Property (IP) Protection:
1. Get some help: It’s so expensive to protect designs in Australia and we believe that the Australian government should do more to help small businesses. The best advice we can give is to call IP Australia – it’s a free service and they give you advice on how to register designs.
2. Don’t think you’re not going to get copied: Don’t ever think your design is too small to be noticed and copied. Once your design is out there, there’s nothing you can do if someone decides to copy it and so you have to protect yourself before you go out into the world. It’s better to be safe than sorry and have a fully protected design!
3. Think about how unique your product really is and how you can protect it: IP rights exist in many forms and each IP provides a different type of advantage. Take the time to understand clearly how to protect your product and get help with doing so. You won’t regret it!
4. Understand what can and can’t be protected: Whilst a lawyer is expensive, your design is the core of your business and understanding what can and can’t be protected is key. Make sure you are taking every step possible to protect your design and in turn, your company.
5. And finally, take it as a compliment: It’s a hard and expensive lesson to learn, but the sooner you accept it, the easier it will be to move on and focus on making your business even better. At least you know you’re on to something worth stealing! Use your knowledge to make your next design bigger and even better and come out on top once more.
About the author
Meagan Redelman is co-founder of Redsbaby. She and her husband Brett Redelman conceived the business after hearing numerous friends bemoan the lack of stylish and practical prams available. After looking into other products on the market and deciding that there was indeed a gap, Meagan and Brett decided to find a solution themselves. With Meagan’s extensive experience in product management from her previous roles at Sunbeam and Tomtom, it made sense to come up with their own, better design and so they looked into it and decided to give it a go. Not only did they have Meagan’s intricate knowledge of product design, the importance of tailoring products to individual markets, trademarking, forecasting, how to handle offshore suppliers and production, but Meagan also already had exposure to the baby category and the strict regulations that go with it.