“Absolutely powerless”: Business owners are having their ideas stolen, but what can they do about it?

“Absolutely powerless”: Business owners are having their ideas stolen, but what can they do about it?

Dominic Powell / Friday, October 19, 2018

stolen ideas Great Ideas in Nutrition founder Amanda Clark. Source: Supplied.

After seeing her product stolen and sold by a multinational healthcare company, Amanda Clark says she felt “absolutely powerless”.

“I remember going to an IP lawyer, who took one look at the size of the company and said: ‘Do you really want to pursue this?’,” she says.

“I knew if they launched any sort of legal defence, I couldn’t match it.”

Clark is the founder of nutrition and weight-loss consultancy Great Ideas in Nutrition, and in 2006 had released a product called Portion Perfection, a book and plate combo which helped dieters better portion their meals.

The founder was showing off the product at a trade show when a representative from the multinational approached her and asked if they could collaborate on creating a version of the product for the larger company.

“They said they absolutely loved it, but afterwards no one got in touch. Eventually, they told me while they were thinking about doing something, they decided against it. So at the time I just moved on,” she says.

However, a few years later, the company released an almost carbon-copy of Clark’s portion plate, complete with an accompanying book, similar logo, and even a similar colour scheme.

Clark quickly went to the company with her concerns and did end up penning a legal letter to the multinational, who dismissed her complaints and said the product was an independent idea. Years later, despite switching up the design of the initial copy of Clark’s product, she says the business is still selling her product.

“I hope one day they’ll stop,” she says.

A very common line

Clark’s feeling of being powerless to stop such cases of IP theft is one which runs commonly through the small business and startup community. Founders regularly see large corporates ‘take inspiration’ from their designs and products, and outside of long, expensive legal battles, there’s not much which can be done about it.

And while some business owners brush it off as validation or a form of flattery, the ongoing success of a business can be gravely affected by the actions of an ‘inspired’ big business.

It’s a situation chief executive of startup accelerator BlueChilli Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin says he’s seen time and time again, which has led the startup guru to question the intention of many large firms who seek to partner with Australian startups.

“Intentions are not always pure with some of these companies. Often they’re just collecting data on new ideas to present to their clients as their own,” he says.


Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin and Luther Poier. Source: Supplied.

Eckersley-Maslin says he’s seen “horror stories” of situations where large corporates have offered to partner or invest in local startups, and have proceeded to suck out the startup’s IP to use on their own products.

“I saw an ASX-listed company who was looking to invest in the capabilities of one of our startups, and like any startup, they were running low on money so they were keen.

“The conversation got to the pointy end, and then the management team of the larger company saw the startup was running low on money so they decided to wait until the startup was more desperate.

“They then did a completely different deal, which ended up killing the startup,” he says.

Don’t confuse customers with investors

For Clark, she’s kept soldiering on, taking solace in the fact the company who wronged her has no idea what she’s doing next. She says the experience has taught her the bleak reality of copyright and IP protection strategies, which she calls “fairly weak”.

“They’re much weaker than I thought they were, and pretty much unless you have a patent and you’re willing and able to fight it there’s not much you can do about someone breaching your trademark,” she says.

And when it comes to registering trademarks and patents, IP lawyers have told SmartCompany it’s often far too expensive to consider, with director at Hitch Advisory Nicholas Hitchens saying design trademarks can cost thousands of dollars.

“Even if you’ve got it registered, if you think someone’s stolen your design, you’ve still got to book a date with them in Federal Court,” Hitchens said

“You just have to move away and take solace in the fact that you were innovative once, and hopefully you’ll be innovative again,” he added.

In light of these situations, businesses should never “confuse customers with investors” says Eckersley-Maslin, with startups needing to be vigilant about the true intentions of large companies who come knocking.

“Know where they are in terms of strategy, and always have a plan B or C, because anything can happen and intentions are not obvious,” he says.

“The best way for companies to defend against unscrupulous partners is to grow fast.”

Ideas should be shared

Another Australian startup founder who’s found himself handed the short end of the idea-stealing stick is Vaibhav Namburi, who found himself discussing ideas for a new startup with an acquaintance of his at the time.

Though Namburi’s idea had just a “loose relation” to the business his acquaintance was running, a few weeks later that business owner injected a similar service to what Namburi was intending to provide into his already-existing business.

Vaibhav Namburi

Vaibhav Namburi. Source: Supplied.

But instead of getting irritated, Namburi says he took a different view, with the other founder ending up saving him time and effort by validating the product he was looking to build.

“When someone steals your idea, the only difference between you and them is that they executed on it, and in the end whoever executes best is who wins,” he says.

When I wrote about it, people were throwing sympathy at me, but honestly I think an idea doesn’t mean jack shit unless you execute on it.”

At the time, Namburi could see the other founder’s product and how it was working, which enabled him to improve the product he intended to launch. In the end, he thinks companies should focus more on selling the story rather than strictly selling their products, and founders should never be afraid to share their ideas.

“Every idea should be shared because they need mass validation. Do you think that people would have gotten into strangers cars to be dropped home years ago without being exposed to it first?

“In the end, share and keep your execution plan to yourself, but let other people know about what you’re doing. Discussion about ideas should always be free-flowing,” he says.

Article found HERE at SmartCompany.com.au

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Over half of Australia’s growers non-compliant as Ombudsman recovers more than $1 million for underpaid workers

Over half of Australia’s growers non-compliant as Ombudsman recovers more than $1 million for underpaid workers

Dominic Powell / Friday, November 23, 2018

Australia’s workplace watchdog has revealed the results of its crackdown on Australia’s fruit and vegetable growers, finding more than 50% of businesses audited were non-compliant with the country’s Fair Work Act.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO) Harvest Trail Inquiry investigated nearly 650 businesses involved with the harvesting of various crops, including labour hire companies, and recovered more than $1 million in wages for over 2,500 affected workers.

Labelling the non-compliance “widespread” and at times deliberate, the FWO said in a statement many of the businesses were found to be significantly underpaying workers, falsifying records, deliberately withholding payslips, and making unauthorised deductions.

Over 130 infringement notices were issued throughout the inquiry, along with 13 compliance notices. The FWO also entered into seven enforceable undertakings with companies who were found to be non-compliant.

The FWO also took court action against eight of the companies, recovering more than $500,000 in penalties.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman visited hundreds of horticulture businesses and found over half did not comply with workplace laws. Our inquiry highlighted unacceptable practices of underpaying workers in one of Australia’s largest rural industries,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said in a statement.

“Growers rely heavily on migrant workers to pick, pack and process crops, and these workers can be particularly vulnerable. Migrant workers may not seek help because of language and cultural barriers, concerns about visa status, or because they are unaware of their workplace rights.”

“All workers in Australia have the same rights and protections at work, regardless of citizenship or visa status. During this inquiry, we assisted hundreds of migrant workers to recover their pay, and any workers with concerns should contact us.”

In the wake of the inquiry, the FWO says it intends to establish a stakeholder reference group to further develop and promote a “culture of compliance” in Australia’s horticulture industry. The watchdog also surveyed consumers and discovered over 80 percent said they would avoid buying produce if they knew workers had been underpaid.

Article found HERE at SmartCompany.com.au

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What to do if a confidentiality agreement is breached

What to do if a confidentiality agreement is breached

StartupSmart / Monday, November 26, 2018

When dealing with a breach of a confidentiality agreement it’s important to note a confidentiality agreement is one of the more common legal documents. Many businesses insist associates, contractors and employees enter into a confidentiality agreement before working together.

In most situations, ensuring your counterparty has signed a confidentiality agreement will ensure that your confidential information is kept exactly that: confidential. Unfortunately, however, because of the relatively common nature of such agreements, a breach of a confidentiality agreement is not uncommon.

In the event of a breach of the agreement, there are a number of steps which it is prudent to take. This article will set out an overview of those steps.

1. Review the confidentiality agreement

The first, and perhaps most obvious, step to take is to review the confidentiality agreement. In certain circumstances, the remedies for a breach of confidentiality agreement will be set out in the actual contract itself. In any case, it is important to make sure that the breach you have discovered is actually a breach under the terms of the confidentiality agreement.

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2. Investigate the breach

Investigating the breach is the next step in the process. It’s not enough that you merely suspect your counterparty of having breached the confidentiality agreement, you need to have concrete proof that this has occurred. There are two key issues to look for.

  • How confidential information was released. Was it an employee of your counterparty, was it intentional?
  • The effect the release of the information had on your business, both from an economic point of view and a more general perspective.

3. Approach a lawyer to discuss options

If the breach of the confidentiality agreement has had a significantly detrimental effect on your business, it’s time to discuss your options with a lawyer. In the majority of cases you will be in a position to take legal action for breach of contract, however, you will need to work out whether it’s worth your time and effort to do so. Other potential legal recourses may include copyright infringement, patent infringement or breach of fiduciary duty.

The exact legal strategy you should use will depend on your individual circumstances, which is why you will need to work with a lawyer. However, the good news is if you have signed a confidentiality agreement, it’s very likely you will have some recourse.

To conclude

Using a confidentiality agreement is the most effective way to ensure confidential information stays protected, but no legal document can fully protect you from a dishonest or incompetent partner. If a counterparty breaches a confidentiality agreement, go through the above points and work with a lawyer to check out your options.

Article found HERE at SmartCompany.com.au

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Why you need a mentor, and how to get one

Why you need a mentor, and how to get one

RedZed / Monday, October 1, 2018

For SME owners, a business mentor can bring perspective, experience and connections that would otherwise be out of reach – all things that are invaluable in propelling your small business forward.

However, research conducted by SmartCompany found that more than 50 per cent of small business owners believed having a mentor would be beneficial to their career, yet less than 20 per cent received some form of mentorship.

For those unsure of how a mentor-mentee relationship could be beneficial to your business and your career, SmartCompany spoke with two small business owners to find out how their experiences with their mentors helped them succeed in business.

Stoking up business dreams

In 2017, Stoke n Smoke BBQ owner Chad Griffin had the opportunity to meet his barbeque business idol after winning RedZed Lending Solutions’ Meet the Master competition.

Having just started up his barbeque catering business, Griffin was flown to Richmond, Virginia in the United States to meet barbeque legend, Tuffy Stone – and grill him with some in-depth questions.

Stone, also known as “The Professor” on the American barbeque circuit, quickly became a master of barbeque after taking out a number of barbeque championships on his quest to learn everything he could about the topic.

“He’s a bit of an idol and he’s done a few videos and interviews but nothing really in depth,” says Griffin, who was hoping to get to pick Stone’s brain

“I thought, ‘Jeez, I could learn a thing or two from this guy.’ I wanted to get a little bit more out of him.”

The number one thing Griffin learnt from his mentor was to be prepared. “Whether it’s a competition or your business, you need to have back-ups, you need lists, you need to be over-prepared.”

After watching friends’ businesses fail and realising it’s “not easy to kick off a business,” Griffin says he’s extremely glad he had the opportunity to be mentored by a barbeque and business legend.

“We did need to step back from business and prepare more, and get some good credit behind us.”

Brewing up business with the right combination of mentors

Founder of specialty online tea store Allegra & Grace, Julia Torkos says two business mentors were critical in helping her launch her business in June 2018.

The first helped her establish a clear business model and get clear on her target market. “I spent eight months being coached by her and she was truly amazing in helping me see my strengths and working with them,” says Torkos.

The second helped Torkos form the action plan that got her to the point of launching Allegra & Grace.

After this positive experience with mentoring, Torkos says she’s now ready for a third mentor. She’d love to meet Catherine Langman, a business coach for e-commerce productpreneuers.

“As valuable as my mentors were, I’m missing someone that is an expert in the e-commerce world. Catherine has an abundance of real-life experience and success and some valuable tools that I feel I need to learn.”

Torkos says the opportunity to be mentored by someone who truly gets the challenges she faces in growing her business would be game-changing.

“It would help me create a community in which Australians can connect over a shared cup of tea – the ritual of brewing a cuppa, the amazing health benefits and the calm it evokes.”

How can you get the most out of your mentor?

  • Don’t be scared to ask questions.
  • Be honest and clear about the kind of relationship you’re looking for.
  • Ask for honest feedback.
  • Be clear on what you want to achieve in your business from the mentoring relationship and communicate these things to your mentor.

So, once you realise what mentoring could do for your business, it’s time to start thinking about the next question: Who is the ultimate mentor for you and your business?

Original article found HERE at SmartCompany.com.au 

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What skills does a cybersecurity professional need?

What skills does a cybersecurity professional need?


File 20181123 149721 109zmdp.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Cybersecurity professionals work in software development, network testing, incident response and policy development.


Joanne Hall, RMIT University

Cyber crime is a threat to every organisation that operates internet-connected devices. It’s highly profitable, highly disruptive, and hard to police due to the transnational nature of cyberspace.

Incidences of cyber crime might include fraud, identity theft or privacy breaches, which can have a high personal impact. Ransomware, which locks a system and demands payment, can have widespread economic or healthcare implications.

In the past year, 25% of the Australian adult population was impacted by cyber crime. If we want a robust and resilient society, we need cybersecurity professionals defending every organisation from cyber attack.

Cybersecurity professionals might work in software development, network testing, incident response, or policy development to ensure the security of an organisation.

In popular culture, these experts are often portrayed as lone hackers in hoodies. But in reality, cybersecurity professionals must regularly communicate with a variety of audiences. They must also display a high degree of personal integrity.

Read more:
What teenagers need to know about cybersecurity

What cybersecurity professionals do

To ensure our cybersecurity classes are teaching skills relevant to industry, we consult with security professionals about the skills they are looking for.

As well as technical skills, they tell us they want those they hire to have communication skills, work well in teams, and show empathy and integrity.

The following scenarios show what cybersecurity professionals do on a daily basis. (Names and details have been changed.)

Ensuring systems are compliant

Anna is a software developer for an online retailer. She notices that one of their systems is processing credit card transactions in a way that does not comply with the Payment Card Industry Standards.

The technical project leader does not understand the legal jargon of the PCI standard. The business and legal staff do not understand the software processes behind credit card transactions.

It’s Anna’s job to bring together technical, legal, and business operations staff to discuss the resources required to fix this problem.

Identifying vulnerabilities

Basim is a security specialist working for a consulting company. His team has been contracted by a superannuation fund to conduct a simulated attack on the fund’s network.

Basim’s team grabs a round of coffees and sits around the whiteboard to develop a plan. That afternoon they find a way to change the password of every customer, using a commonly known vulnerability.

Basim immediately calls the super fund to notify them of the dangerous vulnerability. He then spends the rest of the afternoon working with the super fund’s IT team to begin to fix the issue.

The team continues with the simulated attack for three more days and finds a few (less urgent) vulnerabilities. The team collates the attack notes and writes a comprehensive report. The next day Basim hands over the report and delivers a presentation to key members of the super fund.

Read more:
Some cybersecurity apps could be worse for privacy than nothing at all

Monitoring and responding to attacks

Chiyo works in the Security Operations Centre of a university. Her team has set up monitoring systems that alert them to any malicious software (malware) on the university network.

The monitoring system alerts her to some unusual activity with a staff email account, and automatically disables that account. She investigates and finds that a staff member has opened an email attachment containing malware.

Chiyo calls the staff member to notify them that their account has been disabled and discusses the process to regain access. A member of Chiyo’s team configures the email filter and firewall to block the source of malware.

Meanwhile Chiyo walks over to the staff member’s office and erases all data on the infected computer. She then works with the staff member to reinstate the email account, set up software, and retrieve documents from backup storage.

Preventing data breaches

Dimitry works in the cyber security team for a government department. His team is asked to analyse the policies, procedures, and structures of the department to look for risks to citizens’ privacy. He discusses the current laws and best practices with a colleague from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Dimitry’s team identifies five processes where there is a high risk for personal data to be leaked. They analyse each process, determine the likelihood of each type of problem, and examine the possible outcomes of each risk scenario. Dimitry develops a plan and budget to reduce each of the risks. He presents a report to the Minister and the Department Secretary.

The Department Secretary determines that there is a strong case to implement the plan for two of the risky procedures immediately. The other three risky procedures are deemed low-priority, and will be re-examined in six months’ time. Dimitry sets up a team to implement the remediation plan.

Read more:
It’s time for governments to help their citizens deal with cybersecurity

Integrity and communications skills are essential

These scenarios highlight that, in addition to their technical skills, cybersecurity professionals need to work in teams and communicate with a variety of people.

In each case, the security professional had access to information that could easily be sold on the black market, or exploited for personal gain. Anna could have stolen credit card details. Basim’s team knew about some vulnerabilities three days before they informed the super fund. Chiyo had access to a staff member’s entire email history. Dimitry knows about three vulnerable processes that will not be changed for six months.

Personal integrity is crucial to maintain the security of these highly sensitive systems.

Communication with non-technical staff is essential to ensuring that best practice is implemented across an organisation. A strong ethical framework is an absolute necessity for security staff. The best technical staff will only build a safer organisation if their communication skills are strong and their personal integrity is unwavering.The Conversation

Joanne Hall, Lecturer in Mathematics and Cybersecurity, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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