Case study: Adriano Zumbo's sweet success

Building a business and protecting your reputation is a lot like assembling a croquembouche – one slip-up and it can all get very messy.

adriano zumbo australian celebrity chef uses aj park​Building a business and protecting your reputation is a lot like assembling a croquembouche – one slip-up and it can all get very messy. 

He may not be that well-known in New Zealand yet, but pâtissier Adriano Zumbo is a household name across the Tasman, synonymous with unique and delicious pastries and desserts. He’s also gained a fearsome reputation as the ‘Dark Lord of Pastry’ following his appearance on the first series of MasterChef Australia. In what remains the highest-rating episode of the show, contestants were required to reconstruct Zumbo’s notoriously difficult croquembouche profiterole tower in a nerve-wracking two and half hour challenge.

A passionate baker, Zumbo began supplying his homemade muffins, brownies and banana bread to Sydney cafés before opening his first shop in Balmain in 2007. Now, aged just 32, he has four Sydney bakeries and recently opened a fifth in Melbourne, employing more than 100 staff in total. Zumbo’s baking kits are selling like hotcakes. He also gives cooking classes, attends wine and food shows around Australia and is about to publish his third recipe book.

Zumbo has worked hard to establish his mini culinary empire and, as such, it needed safeguarding. Enter Blair Beven, an intellectual property specialist at AJ Park’s newly opened Sydney office. There, he represents a number of high-profile clients, including model Miranda Kerr, Elvis Presley (estate) and Muhammed Ali, and is relishing the chance to work with some of the city’s most creative and exciting companies.

Beven first met Zumbo in 2011 at a red-carpet event the chef was catering. Since then, the pair have worked together to develop an overall global strategy to protect the Zumbo name, business and product brands such as Zumbarons and Zonuts.

“Adriano has a huge following in the UK, where MasterChef Australia screens, and his books are also on sale in New Zealand, the UK, Europe and Japan, so we’ve covered those countries, too,” says Beven.

AJ Park manages a range of different intellectual property issues for Zumbo – most importantly, protecting his name.

“Adriano has a unique name and an important Italian heritage. In this instance he is the brand, and he’s using his name in a commercial sense much like Prada or Gucci. Trade marks and brands are business assets. Your name is where your reputation lies. If you haven’t protected it, you leave yourself open,” warns Beven. “Someone else could file a trade mark application before you do, obtain a registration and effectively prevent you from using your own name commercially.”

In addition to protecting Zumbo’s name, Beven deals with the chef’s commercial agreements, including endorsements, book contracts, merchandising, master classes and appearances at food and wine events.

“There are so many features to do with the Adriano Zumbo brand and so many contact points where IP becomes an issue,” says Beven.

“We’ve worked hard in all of his commercial agreements to recognise the value of his intellectual property. It’s no longer just a byline but a specific commercial factor in all of his agreements. Adriano can now charge a premium for his IP.”

As well as being the face of Vicks in Australia, Zumbo also promotes Harvey Norman’s range of colourful baking equipment. Endorsements of this nature require carefully worded contracts to safeguard his ownership of all the intellectual property he brings to the project.

“Working to protect the Adriano Zumbo brand has been a career highlight for me,” says Beven. “Adriano is very talented and I get immense pleasure watching people enjoy his products while knowing that I represent his IP – his most important asset. We have a great relationship. Adriano always talks to me before making any major decisions. He accepts my advice and trusts me.”

For his part, Zumbo is relieved to have Beven’s expertise on hand so that he can get on with the important matter of satisfying Australia’s sweet tooth.

“It’s good to know that Blair has the IP side of my business sorted. Whenever we’re not sure about something IP related, I just call him. Blair knows what he’s talking about and is good at what he does, so he’s definitely added value to my business.” 

And for others hesitating about investing in intellectual property protection, Zumbo has a simple message: “Don’t let it slip. Don’t think, ‘I’ll do that at a later stage.’ It will just creep up on you – someone will copy you and if you don’t have protection, there’ll be nothing you can do about it.”

 IN BRIEF

Australian celebrity chef Adriano Zumbo is known for his mouth-watering desserts, macarons and pastries and his appearances on MasterChef Australia. Intellectual property specialists at AJ Park’s newly opened Sydney office is helping Zumbo protect his brand, manage his endorsements and safeguard his culinary business.

CONTACT

To find out more, contact Blair Beven at AJ Park, Sydney: blair.beven@ajpark.com