Is your company’s intellectual property protected?

by NZ Adviser30 Oct 2015

As part of their report Maximising the potential of Intellectual Property for your business, CAANZ (Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand) highlighted four lessons from cases where protecting intellectual property had gone wrong, according to an article on

"Effective management of IP can benefit businesses by assisting them to grow through commercialisation opportunities and to develop a strong brand and business reputation," CAANZ's policy head Karen McWilliams said.

"Ultimately, you will be able to minimise the risk of copycats, which can ultimately erode market share."

1. When Volkswagen took over Rolls-Royce
Only after Volkswagen purchased Rolls-Royce and Bentley in 1998, did Volkswagen find out that the purhcase did not include the license to use the Rolls-Royce trade mark on cars, which was still controlled by Rolls-Royce Plc. BMW acquired the rights to use the trade mark after a four-year legal battle. 

LESSON – In any Merger and Acquisition, make sure you know exactly what IP is included and excluded from the deal.

2. Kodak
In 1975, Kodak invented the technology behind the digital camera, patented the first digital camera in 1978 but then put it on the back-burner as they didn’t want to disrupt their successful business model centred on film cameras. Although Kodak earned billions from the patent until it expired in 2007, its hesitation allowed its competition to overtake it, resulting in a file for bankruptcy in 2012. 

LESSON – Take advantage of your intellectual property, registration is not enough on its own.

3. Burger King's expansion into Australia
After American fast-food chain Burger King expanded its operations to Australia in 1971, it realised another company had already registered "Burger King" as a trade mark, resulting in a rebrand of their restaurants to "Hungry Jack's" for the Australian market.

LESSON – Build a your IP strategy in advance and register relevant IP rights in all necessary jurisdictions

4. Donkey Kong and King Kong
Universal Studios pursued aggressive litigation tactics against Nintendo in 1982 over the King Kong trade mark as Nintendo's Donkey Kong game appeared to have the same story line. 

But damages were ultimately awarded to Nintendo after a case was cited where Universal Studios had won a court case they filed to have King Kong recognised as a public-domain property.

LESSON – It's important to regularly review your IP assets.

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