AN AUSTRALIAN four-wheel drive equipment manufacturer has won a major copyright infringement ruling in the Federal Court that sets a strong message to businesses involved in breaching patents.
Queensland-based MSA 4X4 Accessories won the case after a competitor copied its internationally patented design for a drop-down fridge slide.
The court action and subsequent penalty – which was not disclosed – against the defendant was the result of MSA applying patents to all its own products and establishes a position to defend any future copyright breaches.
The patent involved a drop-down fridge slide that was designed and made by MSA owner Shane Miles in 2007. It was awarded patents in Australia and overseas.
Mr Miles told GoAutoNews Premium that it was vital that the intellectual property of Australians be protected, however he was stinging in his opinion of a range of government representatives who he said “did absolutely nothing” to help him defend the patents.
“It was a lot of money for our small company to defend our patents but it was well worth it,” Mr Miles said.
“It should send out a strong message to any individual or company that is copying – or plans to copy – someone else’s work.
“We have had an overwhelming flood of emails and Facebook responses to our case. Most were Australian companies like ours and there was also a long list of CEOs from major corporations who thanked us for refusing to back down. ‘Thank you for standing up and fighting’ was a common statement.”
MSA won the case against Glynton Chislett of Australian Ute Trays and Bodies Pty Ltd, who in March 2016 began to sell a copy of Mr Miles’ drop-down fridge slide that was in breach of patent.
The Federal Court of Australia ordered on August 21 this year that Mr Chislett and his companies, Isipinqo Investments Pty Ltd and DC & GC Investments Pty Ltd, infringed on MSA’s patent by manufacturing and importing an imitation of MSA’s product into Australia. It was deemed in breach of Mr Miles’ exclusive rights to the product’s design.
“This is the second person we have successfully taken to court,” Mr Miles said.
“The first person we found who had copied our patent admitted the breach and signed a declaration saying he wouldn’t repeat the action. The second – Mr Chislett – was also caught and signed a declaration but within 12 months was back doing it again under another business name.
“The action that was successful against Mr Chislett shows that we will not allow this to happen to our designs and that it shouldn’t happen to other businesses as well.”
Mr Miles said the patents on his products covered Australia and overseas markets including China, the US and Europe. He said the Australian patent cost of about $5000, plus overseas coverage for about $5000 for each market, was expensive but necessary..
He said products made by his company were engineered to the highest level, underwent safety testing in the field and in crash-test exercises to ensure they were durable, reliable and safe.
He said many imitators did not safety test the product and had little regard for the purchaser after the sale.
“It seems to be an industry trend now that these companies come along and think they can steal the hard-earned designs and ideas of other companies who have put in the extensive time and money to develop new and innovative products,” he said.
MSA employs 15 people in Australia and 30 overseas. It sells through 500 dealers in Australia including ARB, TJM, Opposite Lock and some Autobarn outlets.
By Neil Dowling