Left to right: Jimmy Gardner, director marketing and communications; Mike Hargreaves, AllTeams founder and managing director UK; Will Stamers-Smith, CEO • Photo by NZ Herald
How a Kiwi web company protected its IP
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When the UK government decided it wanted to use a social media website to encourage more children to play sport, it understandably turned to New Zealand, with its rich sporting culture, to find a company to take on the project.
Enter AllTeams, a fledgling company creating web solutions and social networks for sports clubs in New Zealand. It won the tender for the three-and-a-half-month pilot that, if continued, could potentially be worth millions of pounds.
Formed in 2007 by cousins Mike Hargreaves and Will Stamers-Smith, AllTeams was smart enough to sort out the legal issues relating to its intellectual property even before it appeared online in New Zealand.
AllTeams’ sports clubs websites include a place to list game fixtures and results and a behind-the-scenes interactive area offering mutual benefits for clubs and sponsors.
“We provide sports organisations with a single platform for them to perform all their administration and communication functions for the club,” says AllTeams CEO Stamers-Smith. “We allow them to sell business listings to their sponsors and to local businesses. The next stage is to allow those businesses to actually feed offers into the members.”
While the idea, once in the public domain, could be copied, it was the unique operating code that needed protection.
Wayne Hudson, an intellectual property specialist from Hudson Gavin Martin, says protecting AllTeams’ intellectual property in New Zealand involved confidentiality agreements so the company could discuss the concept with sports clubs prior to launch, setting up a company, shareholders’ agreements, subscription agreements, Securities Act compliance and trademark registration.
The UK opportunity involved creating a similar website where school sports teams could interact and record results. The challenge was to separate the intellectual property, in the form of computer code that existed in New Zealand, into a form acceptable in the UK to secure the available funding.
“The normal process is for a company to develop its software idea or its product, grow it until the point where it can’t get any further within New Zealand, then start looking offshore,” Hudson says.
With AllTeams, the process was reversed. Winning the tender for the UK sports website forced the company to set up a UK subsidiary. “I haven’t heard of it being done in quite this order,” Hudson says. “The company’s early success has generated that.”
Stamers-Smith, who remains in New Zealand while Hargreaves has moved to the UK to run the subsidiary company, says the technical aspects of splitting the IP wasn’t difficult—it was a simple sale and purchase agreement between the New Zealand company and the UK subsidiary and copy and paste of the code. It was important to get the legalities right to ensure the company could start looking for UK investors.
“This is a very important step for us as it means we can actually start fundraising in the UK,” Stamers-Smith says. “Wayne was probably one of the most important consultants we talked to. He has really helped us through what can be a very tricky process for a startup and given us really good advice.”
“IP lawyer Wayne Hudson was probably one of the most important consultants we talked to. He has really helped us through what can be a very tricky process for a startup ... It’s really important to be fastidious right from the start”
The website www.ukscores.net recently went live and is now being piloted in 50 schools across the West Midlands in the UK.
“The next step with the project is the completion and evaluation of the pilot and if the government is comfortable and they want to go ahead, it will be rolled out across the UK,” Stamers-Smith says.
It is hoped that if the website is successful in the UK, it can be promoted to the New Zealand Ministry of Education to encourage children here to play sport.
“We were lucky enough to be taken along the right route,” Stamers-Smith says. “If someone had taken our idea or had become aware of our intellectual property early enough, there is no reason why they couldn’t have gone out and quickly copied what we had done and got to the market quicker than us and taken that opportunity.
“It’s really important to be fastidious right from the start. Having a really good relationship with a professional lawyer like Wayne is so invaluable.”
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