ZipString's Austin Hillam on How to Protect Your Inventions and Keep Innovation Going

Future of IP Protection Podcast - Austin Hillam

In this episode, Branddy speaks to Austin Hillam, Co-Founder at ZipString, a handheld physics toy developer and manufacturer.

Branddy and Austin talk about the creation of ZipString, how quickly counterfeits and scams popped up, and the efforts they've spent combating those companies. They also discuss the impact of counterfeits that go beyond just monetary, best practices for keeping your IP safe around the world, and advice for founders, including to find knowledgeable partners early.

Topics Discussed

  • How Austin and his co-founder created ZipString, how it gained in popularity after a viral video, and their experience getting a deal on Shark Tank. 
  • How counterfeits and scams started popping up three months after their viral video, and what actions they took to get them taken down.
  • The various ways counterfeits and scams hurt the company, from taking market share, to misrepresenting the brand, to taking away time spent on innovation.
  • Lessons learned from taking down thousands of fake listings, including why you should go after their assets, the need to register your IP around the world, and how you can fast track the patent process.
  • How ZipString has adapted their approach to IP in order to keep their innovation engine running.
  • Why finding great partnerships in the beginning is crucial, and other pieces of advice for innovators and start-ups.

Guest Quotes


"When we launched that viral video, that first viral video ... around five months later, I had already removed around 5,000 different listings off Amazon's brand registry. It was a game of whack-a-mole. They'd pop up and I have to take them down." (10:56)


"Innovators need to have confidence to innovate and to create new ideas. And there's people who get paid to copy it and kind of ruin it. So innovators, they lose this confidence to create new things and come up with new ideas that in a whole make society a better place." (16:28)


"When I was myself going over and removing each listing, they're just going to pop up again because it's just a game of whack-a-mole. But when you start going after their money and what they're taking away from you, then they'll start stopping." (18:30)


"How you disclose your inventions and your IP, it's very difficult because different countries have different rules. As soon as you disclose it, that patent is void. ... So it's very important to get your patents aligned and moving before you disclose any of your intellectual property." (19:52)


"Partnering with good businesses and people who know the industry better than you and who have different strategies to go after the counterfeits and scams and knock offs. I wish we found some of those partnerships earlier or talked to someone earlier who had faced the same challenges." (31:02)

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