Ironman 4x4, the Victorian-based, globally-recognised off-road product brand, has reinforced the value of copyright and intellectual property protection after it emerged victorious in a court case against a rival manufacturer.
In April, Ironman 4x4 announced they’d obtained orders in the Federal Court after filing a copyright infringement notice and breach of confidence claim over a matter that dates back to August, 2022.
Back then, Ironman 4x4 discovered that a former employee, upon returning their company-issued mobile phone, had taken confidential data relating to upcoming product for the next-generation Ford Ranger and Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series, and then sent that data to Victorian 4x4 brand Offroad Animal.
Upon seeing emails and messages that had been sent to the directors and shareholders of Offroad Animal, Ironman 4x4 responded immediately, applying for an ex parte injunction, given the seriousness of the copyright infringement and potential damage to the Ironman 4x4 brand.
Speaking to JUST 4x4s, Ironman 4x4 Managing Director, Tom Jacob said this situation was a first in the company’s long history, that goes back 35 years with the Ironman 4x4 brand and 65 years for parent company, Jacob Spring Works.
“We have massive investment in developing these products – at speed. And speed to market is critical,” Jacob explained. “That’s the difference between success and failure. Not just the quality of the product, but the speed to fill the market’s requirements That’s why this was such a serious issue for us.”
With one of the products in question, a bullbar for the next-generation Ford Ranger, designs had been completed and manufacturing had commenced - giving Ironman 4x4 at least a three- to four-month lead on their rivals - when the copyright situation arose.
“We focus on doing things, as a company and a global exporter, that give us the best opportunities to release product, not only in Australia, but also throughout the world,” Jacob added. “And we’ve got hundreds of employees that rely on our ability to execute the development of product to ensure the Ironman 4x4 brand is first to market around the world.
“These sorts of things put the entire company at risk. When we discovered our data had been taken and potentially misused, it was our responsibility to act.”
Ironman 4x4 filed further complaints against Offroad Animal, alleging several false statements made about the brand on social media, but Jacob said the two filings were not directly related.
The final orders made by the Federal Court against Offroad Animal prohibit the use and reproduction of any Ironman 4x4 copyright and confidential works, with instructions to destroy or return all works in their possession.
Offroad Animal and the former Ironman 4x4 employee agreed to the final court orders and were ordered to pay a total of $450,000 in costs and damages to Ironman 4x4.
“We’re a proudly Australian, 65-year-old company, with a proud family heritage and legacy to maintain,” Jacob said. “And we care about being an innovator of four-wheel drive accessories and solutions for markets around the world, including supply to the United Nations and at least five car manufacturers.”
Regarded as the second-largest four-wheel drive accessories company in Australia, Ironman 4x4’s growth in recent years saw them increase their workforce in Australia by 60 per cent under COVID-19.
“Our strength is the passion and spirit of our people, who develop great products and have a deep love and understanding of what four-wheel drives are all about,” Jacob concluded.
The Ironman 4x4 range can be purchased from four-wheel drive accessory retailers Australia-wide, while a strong presence at 4x4 shows allows customers can see product fitted to vehicles and ask questions of passionate Ironman 4x4 staff.
For more details, go to: ironman4x4.com