Tread carefully in taking inspiration from overseas ventures

Canny Australian entrepreneurs have been pouncing on international business ideas for decades.

Canny Australian entrepreneurs have been pouncing on international business ideas for decades.

Some, such as Boost Juice founder Janine Allis, have tailored ideas originally aimed at overseas markets to launch thriving businesses here.

Allis was on a trip to the US with her husband in 1999 when she first saw the juice bar concept in action. When she got home Allis began working on plans for something similar on home turf. Today Boost has 250 stores across 14 countries and Allis is one of the nation's most recognisable businesswomen.

But localising businesses based elsewhere can be deceptively difficult. Business law experts warn those with plans to adapt overseas businesses to be wary of breaching intellectual property laws such as copyright, patents and trademarks.

Keith Hanslow, partner at Millens law practice and business advisory service, says copying a business idea could be a costly exercise.

"They might sue you if you are stealing their idea," he says. "You have to be careful not to tread on their intellectual property. People say intellectual property isn't like a patent, but it's wider than that."

Hanslow advises getting as much information as possible about the business while in its home town.

"You've got to do as much research as you can from over there," he says. "Try the product and experience what it's like, get information on its cost structure and ring the business and see if they have franchises."

With fewer venture-funding options, Australia cannot hope to match the e-commerce success stories of the US and Britain. Yet this hasn't stopped a stampede of Australian businesses customising US outfits. US company TaskRabbit, which outsources errands to vetted people looking for odd jobs, has attracted two Australian counterparts: Sidekicker and Airtasker.

Australian company Spreets jumped on the group-buying trend set by US daily deals giant Groupon.

Outside the e-commerce world, recent start-ups influenced by US business models include indoor trampoline park Bounce.

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