Case study: Weightless exporter? Lock in your IP

Case study: Weightless exporter? Lock in your IP
Any New Zealand company taking an idea to the world has to ensure their IP is well protected at an international level.

Any New Zealand company taking an idea to the world has to ensure their IP is well protected at an international level.(L-R) Paul Cameron, Brooke Geahan, Derek Handley and Mark Cameron launched Booktrack in August. IP firm AJ Park was instrumental in ensuring the technology  was protected and appropriately commercialised, using its well-established relationships with overseas associates to help file patent applications around the world.

So you thought the book had reached the pinnacle of its evolution, but then ebooks came along and changed all that.

Now a pair of New Zealand brothers has pushed the boundaries even further with a new application called Booktrack. It’s a fully immersive reading experience that adds new dimensions to the ebook you’re reading through carefully created and synchronised sound effects and a music soundtrack that matches your individual reading pace.

Booktrack launched in the US in August and in a few short months it’s gained worldwide media interest – it’s now a popular seller on the Apple App Store. It’s also been extremely well received by publishers and authors, who are delighted to find another way to differentiate their product and boost sales of both new titles and classics.

“Reading hasn’t really changed for more than 2,000 years,” says co-creator Paul Cameron. “Reading rates around the world are declining and literacy is a real concern – especially with younger audiences – and it’s mainly due to the rich multimedia environment reading has to compete with. With Booktrack, we’re trying to provide another reading option that will make reading fun again for existing readers as well as the next generation of readers.”

Booktrack was initially started with grants from the Ministry of Science and Innovation, without which Cameron says it would never have got to market. He and his brother Mark then generated momentum using Kiwi networks in the US to approach potential investors. Through those connections they’ve enticed some key backers, including PayPal founder Peter Thiel, Derek Handley of The Hyperfactory and Facebook director of global creative solutions (and Kiwi expat) Mark D’Arcy.

Light as paper

Booktrack could well be the ultimate weightless export model – it’s a highly efficient business with global reach, which leverages others’ distribution channels and infrastructure platforms, using IP created in New Zealand.

While the sales and marketing of Booktrack is focused in the US, the R&D takes place here. The software and soundtracks are created by a small in-house team on Auckland’s North Shore, with additional audio input from Kiwi companies such as Wellington’s Park Road Post Production, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and local musicians.

“It’s very infrastructure light, with no manufacture, just people and computers,” says Cameron. “The concepts we create are all digital and are transmitted around the world using existing distribution platforms. We’ve introduced it into a market where there are already devices and infrastructure in place, and innovated around an existing entertainment pasttime – we haven’t had to build any hardware or global infrastructure ourselves, which is pretty rare in business.”

Protecting that unique IP has been a vital step in Booktrack’s path to success. Three years ago, armed with a prototype and a provisional patent application, Mark and Paul approached patent attorney Hadleigh Brown at AJ Park.

“Hadleigh’s been fantastic,” says Cameron. “He really understands our product from a technical level, so we have good continuity when we come back with new developments. But he also suggests different approaches and strategies around our IP. You really want someone who will say ‘there might be a better way here, guys,’ and that’s what he does. It’s been an invaluable relationship.”

Any New Zealand company taking an idea to the world has to ensure their IP is well protected at an international level.

Brown has helped them align their IP-protection strategy with their commercialisation strategy to get the best result.

“We assessed what they had and initially protected the most important inventions to secure them an advantage in the market,” he says.

“Successful patenting and commercialisation is a lot about timing. They were developing their technology and at the same time wanting to protect their innovations and seek investment. Start-ups don’t have big budgets for IP so it’s vital to file a patent application when the technology is advanced enough. It’s all about managing costs, timing and sequencing.”

Booktrack is protected in several major international markets. It’s a significant investment, but a necessary one, says Brown, and with differing and constantly changing laws in each country, getting the strategy right is essential.

AJ Park has used its well-established relationships with overseas associates to help file the patent applications around the world.

A real page-turner
“These guys are exciting clients to work with,‘ says Brown. “They’ve grown quickly and found significant credible investors willing to fund their idea. It’s exciting, as an advisor, to see your client launching successfully and progressing on from having an initial prototype and an idea to turning it into something that can be downloaded from the Apple App store.”

It’s early days yet – the Booktrack catalogue is still small, but titles are being added regularly and, with new tools to speed up production time in development, the sky is the limit. But who can blame Paul Cameron for thinking big?

“We’d like to be the first billion-dollar start-up to come out of New Zealand. Success for us would be seeing Booktrack become the pervasive technology around e-reading. We hope it’s something people will choose as an alternative form of reading and entertainment around the world.”

In brief
Booktrack was launched by Mark and Paul Cameron in August, with the help of AJ Park

It represents the ultimate in the weightless exporting model – highly efficient, and with global reach

To find out more, contact Hadleigh Brown,
09 353 8216,,

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