Tuesday November 11, 2003
Australian inventor Garry Allen persevered through a five-year court battle against a German corporate giant in order to retain control over his invention - a folding-iron board that can be reduced to the size of a large brief case and fixed to a single wall stud in even the tightest location, because it unfolds parallel to the wall and rotates 180 degrees to any position you like.
Allen took the company to court after it released a copy of his ironing board to market. He lost on appeal however, after a legal loophole found in his contract with the company.
"Basically I had a signed confidentiality agreement that they completely ignored," Garry said.
His agreement had no definite end date and this meant it was void. It had breeched fair trade practices.
"At the time my contract was drawn up, no one considered a time limit important. Even today, it is not standard for confidentiality agreements to have an end date.
"I want all inventors to be aware of this. Without an end date, they place themselves at great risk," he said.
Despite this, Garry's commitment to his idea continued and is now a growing business after designing a superior model to the original version.
"I wanted to design a real product that would be recognised by the public as valuable. Not just some cheap gimmicky thing," he said
'Lifestyle Ironing Centre' is easy to install yourself and is designed so that you can sit at it, making it particularly useful if you are elderly, disabled or injured.
Garry had various different prototypes before he perfected the design. The final break came some 30 thousand feet in the air over Atlanta Georgia. "My best ideas are often created on a plane, when I am doodling on paper to pass the time," he said.
Now the Lifestyle Ironing Centre' is selling very well overseas, including US and Europe.