The Importance of Protecting IP Explained

Award-winning Brendale business Elexon Electronics takes great lengths to protect the intellectual property of the technology and products it develops – but managing director Pieter Kuiper says it’s not an easy job.

In the week of World IP Day, Pieter says that without the ability to protect their IP many companies would fall victim to copycats – and that even with protection many still do.

Elexon was named Business of the Year and also took out the Advanced Manufacturing Excellence award at the 2021 Moreton Bay Region Business Excellence and Innovation Awards.

The company specialises in the design, development and manufacture of a diverse range of electronic products for niche local and export markets – so having control over the ideas the Elexon team brings to life is essential.

Brazen copycats

“For us it’s crucial because we’re an innovation and technology business and protecting IP is fundamental, because IP and the development of products is core to our business,” Pieter explains.

“If we didn’t, then we would have people copying us – ironically, we do anyway.

“Even with all the patents we have, we still get copied.

“IP protection is not the Holy Grail – it’s a lot murkier than that (and there are) IP attorneys for a reason, because it’s not the easiest thing to do.”

Pieter says in one instance, a brazen Chinese company went to market with a product Elexon had been manufacturing for more than 10 years.

“We had just done major improvements to it and on the day it went into production a Chinese company made a copy of the old version and the copy was downright dangerous.

“We wrote a bulletin and sent it around and said it was not an Elexon product and it was dangerous.

“It was pretty clear they had read my bulletin because then they created a new version.”

Fortunately, Elexon hasn’t been copied in areas where it was strategically important to the company, and so they’ve not had to fight an IP lawsuit.

“You feel a bit violated, particularly when it’s blatant,” Pieter says.

“What we do is particularly difficult stuff, and it takes a great team and great culture to be able to produce the designs we have.”

Meeting a need

Pieter says Elexon has been successful because it works with customers to find solutions to their problems – which takes time, and skills.

“The main issue lies in figuring out what the customer really needs.

“If it’s not actually adding value to your customer, then it’s all for nothing.

“Deeply understanding the customer need is the most important thing.”

Sometimes, he says, the need is not immediately apparent, but it is essential to be patient and to listen carefully.

“There’s some science in it, but there’s also just pure art form in it,” Pieter explains.

“Often you need to tease a bit with what’s possible technology-wise.

“It’s this dance between what’s possible and just enough to broaden the horizons of the people you’re trying to get information out of.

“But if you anticipate too far, you can also miss the mark.”

Elexon continues to evolve and is constantly developing new ideas of its own and with clients.

Pieter says that, last month, the company manufactured its first product that’s going into space. That product isn’t an Elexon design, though – it was manufactured for another company. It’s still a fun milestone though.

“We have a map in the foyer showing where all of our products are – we’ll have to figure out how to put this one on the map,” he laughs.


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