As entrepreneurial-ship becomes more and more digitally based, it is becoming easier for other companies to knock off your products, faster, and for a cheaper price. Company founders, Gary Ross, Alex Abrams, and Jayme Smaldone talk from experience about how proper steps to protect against counterfeiting are necessary for your business to grow efficiently.
According to a report released in 2017 by the International Chamber of Commerce, The Economic Impacts of Counterfeiting and Piracy,the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy could reach US$2.3 trillion by 2022.
Protecting your intellectual property is becoming increasingly more important. When starting out as a small business which has invented a product for market, Jayme Smaldone, founder of Mighty Mug, admits a lot of entrepreneurs don’t back themselves enough, and that’s when troubles first arise.
“You need to patent your product first before it gets any market validation. Once it is out there in the digital world you can’t protect it… At Mighty Mug we only valued ourselves at selling 10,000 units, where now we’re nearing four million… back yourself and back your ideas. Don’t sell yourself short.”
Gary Ross is the founder of Highwave, which is a parent company that specialises in innovation and designing products to make life easier. Ross says it has had to follow up on over 1100 breaches of its patents.
“Getting knocked off is flattering to an extent, but as a small business owner it is a lot to deal with while still trying to grow your business.”
The panel suggested three things that will protect your designs from being copied:
- Cease and desist letters.
- Third party providers who can offer services to protect patents on your behalf.
Ross suggests patenting and trademarking your products as one of the very first things you do when starting your business. As the rise of the online age had made it easier for overseas competitors to copy production on products they see doing well.
“As a small business, patents can be very expensive,” he says. “And filing in every country is not often feasible… But in saying that, there is no point to come up with a great idea if it’s just going to go into cyber space and get copied.”
Ross suggests patenting in China and anywhere else your product is being manufactured, and where there is a high rate of knock offs.
“And not just manufacturing patents are important now, but also design patents to protect those designs.”
Abrams agrees with Ross that patenting is the smartest way to go, and advises shelling out money to patent well and widely, as well as being prepared when your patent expires after its terms.
“Another thing that is good for a lot of new businesses, is find a good, smaller law firm. The larger ones don’t often have a huge focus on digital, and as an emerging business that’s what you’ll need. Find a small one where you will become an increasingly important client as your business grows.”
The panel was held by Daniel Shapiro, director of global strategic partnership Red Points which uses technology to scan the web for copy right infringements on behalf of its clients.
Abrams, who is a client of Red Point, suggests that having eyes every where on your behalf is a good strategic move from small business owners who are already stretched thin across the business.
“Counterfeits are not just taking your revenue, but they’re also talking your time… The best way you can combat it is to be everywhere.”
Ross agrees that taking as many precautions with your products in the early stages will save you time, money and hassle further down the line. But he also encourages businesses to not be discouraged by the high rates of counterfeits, as sometimes there is only so much you can do.
“You can have 100 things you need to get done, and sometimes you’ll do 99 things correctly and that remaining one will be the one that gets you. We all make mistakes, it’s a learning curve but its also an adventure.”
Courtney Devereux travelled to the International Home + Housewares Show courtesy of the International Housewares Association.