Our client, Jack Gasparre, shares his story about how his invention was stolen from him, and we explain why intellectual property protection is just like special insurance.
We take a closer look at registered versus contractual Intellectual Property (“IP”) protection, and how it can help an entrepreneur or an inventor protect their product, just like insurance.
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Here is the story about how Jack’s invention was stolen.
Jack came up with a radically new kind of pizza oven. He is not the inventor of the oven, but of a unique feature in comparison to other ovens. Jack elevated the flame and the source of heat in order to maximize the cooking surface area. That’s what makes it unique and that’s what makes it a compact oven.
Jack had wanted to make this for a long time. He started the process by drawing a model and had a prototype made. He tried it out and experimented with different designs. Once he was confident that he could go to market, he had it manufactured. He started off with one oven for his food truck. For those that wanted more, he made different sizes for bigger homes and even for restaurants. He also added different elements like a rotisserie. Because it’s not just a pizza oven – it’s primarily an oven and you can cook many things with it.
Jack opened up a showroom and spent lots of time going to expos for a good couple of years. Then, regrettably, he received an email from his manufacturer stating that they were going to brand his product and manufacture it for themselves!
He entered into legal proceedings to try and prevent his product from being stolen. This was not successful. Legal proceedings cost a considerable amount of money and can seriously hurt a start-up business.
How to Protect Your Intellectual Property Before Approaching a Third Party
Before approaching a third party with your invention, you can either file a Registered Design or a Patent. Now you have registered Intellectual Property protection. This gives you a statutory right to enforce your right onto any third party, whether that is a manufacturer or someone else. It’s so much easier to fight a copycat if you have this intellectual property right registered.
Alternatives When Intellectual Property Registration Is Not an Option
Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
There are cases when Intellectual Property registration is not an option. Not all products qualify for patent or design protection. And in some cases, the start-up doesn’t have the funds for registration. In these instances, as a bare minimum, put a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place with the third party. Put it on paper that you are the one that brought the idea to the table. This is good, at least while you’re figuring out if you can work together in a mutually beneficial way.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
After initial discussions, if you decide that you want to work with the manufacturer (or other 3rd party), you can then enter into a Service Level Agreement (SLA). This contract would regulate the rights and obligations of both parties. Sometimes these contracts are used in combination with registered Intellectual Property rights such as a patent or registered design. But even in the absence of having a patent or a registered design, you at least have contractually bound the third party. And that should aid you in enforcing your rights even in the absence of having any statutory (registered) intellectual property rights.
Intellectual Property Protection Is Like Insurance
Now most, if not all, of these protection mechanisms cost something to put in place. But you can think of it as insurance, like car insurance or medical aid. Sometimes they feel useless because you are paying so much money and you’re not getting anything out of it. But on the other hand, when your car does get stolen or you need that emergency medical procedure, then that insurance kicks in to soften the financial blow.
IP rights are exactly the same. It’s imperative that you rather have these rights and not use them, than need them and not have them, as in Jack’s case…
Purchase a Pizza Oven, as seen in the video above.
Visit Jack’s restaurant, Posticino.