No kidding when it comes to litigation
Wow! employs 60 people in Wolverhampton and is among the 100 fastest growing companies in the UK. North has no formal qualifications, having served his time as a salesman before setting up a photography company, followed by an internet search engine, followed by an online gift company, followed by Wow!
“In terms of global toy companies we are small and because of that the big guys ignore you if you try to tackle them about infringements,” North says. “They assume you will go away because you lack the tenacity and money to pursue them. We had both.”
Copies are most likely to come from places such as China and tracking them down is a problem. But North says is also possible to take proceedings closer to home against retailers and their suppliers.
Wow! took an action against the Le Clerc supermarket chain in France and was also successful in having counterfeit goods destined for a UK online retailer intercepted and seized by trading standards officers.
People often ask me why we expend all this energy and money chasing these guys? The answer is if we don’t, why would anyone want to innovate?” says North. “Richard Dyson made people think twice about copying his technology and we too believe that if you put up a hard enough fight, it will act as a deterrent.
“I’m not saying legal actions will completely prevent copies of Attacknid coming onto the market. But I’d put money on it that there will be far less copies appearing than if we hadn’t shown we were prepared to go after people.
“If you are serious about innovation and have the finances to protect yourself and a balance sheet strong enough to go to war, then do it. Far too many companies are lazy and want to piggyback on other people’s ideas and ambitions.
“What would be useful is a fast-track way of getting these people. Right now it takes over a year and the copies have been made and sold by the time they are stopped. For me the best bit about Wow! is innovating. The worst bit is defending what we’ve created. The fun and the upset go hand in hand.”
Toy stories: Protecting your inventions
Bringing the ideas thieves to justice. Is it worth the effort?
Yes, if it’s a product with a defendable competitive advantage.
Yes, if it’s a product with longevity potential.
Yes, if you have the money and the energy.
No, if it’s a one-season wonder product.
No, if you don’t have the budget to keep supporting the product in the marketplace.
No, if you’re not patient and tenacious.