minute read

Don’t get hung out to dry. Protect your Intellectual Property

The Hills Hoist is as Australian as the kangaroo, vegemite and backyard cricket. It’s so iconic it even made a cringe-worthy appearance in the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. But behind the backyard staple lies a cautionary tale for all budding entrepreneurs.

The original hoist was actually the brainchild of Gilbert Toyne, one of 13 children who watched his mother struggle with the unforgiving task of drying the weekly washing. Toyne recognised a gap in the market and at just 14 years of age designed the original hoist. Unfortunately, while Toyne was an ideas man, blessed with ingenious skills, he wasn’t a businessman.

In 1941 he let his patent lapse, paving the way for competitors to swoop in and rob him of his ideas. Without protection, Lance Hill, a savvy businessman with a knack for marketing and promotion, was able to incorporate Toyne’s knowhow in his own hoist and as they say…the rest is history. Toyne lived to see his invention dominate the backyards of Australia but he never got the credit or reaped the financial rewards.

Toyne’s story serves as a reminder to all entrepreneurs that they must make the protection of intellectual property a priority. 

What is intellectual property and why is it important?

Intellectual property (IP) is the umbrella term for property you have developed or created through your intellect, and relates to patents, designs, trademarks, copyright and much more.

Intellectual property is a key ingredient to business success. For startups, a lot of the focus is on developing a business plan, but the smart entrepreneur will support this with a sound intellectual property strategy. This means obtaining a base level knowledge of intellectual property and being proactive about safeguarding your rights and interests.

Why do I need to protect my intellectual property?

There are many reasons why it’s important to protect your intellectual property and establish a comprehensive IP strategy:

  • An IP strategy gives clients, investors and stakeholders confidence in your competence and commitment to succeed
  • IP protection rewards your innovation, enabling you to reap the rewards of investing in your idea
  • IP can be your largest and most valuable asset
  • Protecting your ideas allows you to maintain your competitive advantage. It will stop your trade secrets and creative work being duplicated, either purposely or accidentally
  • It’s not just about protecting the work you are doing, but also checking that someone else hasn’t already taken ownership of IP for similar work

How do I protect my intellectual property?

It’s true that IP can be a complex and confusing area of law for the novice. If mistakes get made along the way, you could end up unprotected, leaving you exposed when pitching your ideas an audience, or talking to employees, investors and contractors.

No one wants to learn the lesson the hard way like Gilbert Toyne. The harsh reality is that it’s not who came up with the idea first, but rather, who took steps to protect it. Get professional advice early in your business journey and move forward with confidence, knowing your ideas are safe.

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