“True-blue” company forced to take patented technology to Texas

The founder of Victorian company FreshBins has highlighted the importance of having a good patent attorney, after lamenting the lack of local investment in FreshBins’ patented technology.


FreshBins is an ecologically-friendly company based in Warrnambool. It provides bin cleaning services for residential, commercial and government customers.


Founded in 2007 by Paul Sewell, FreshBins prides itself on being the only global company using a combination of robotic technology and chemical-free sterilisation processes.


These patented processes enable FreshBins to clean and sterilise more than 1,000 garbage containers per truck per shift, while a closed-loop water recycling unit enables the company to use less than one cup of water per garbage container.


After investing $200,000 in its patented technology, FreshBins was keen to set up a manufacturing facility in Victoria.


But after 18 months of failed negotiations between the Victorian government and local councils, the company has been forced to go offshore.


Now a council in Texas will establish a manufacturing plant using FreshBins’ technology and pay royalty fees to the company for use of the technology.


While Sewell is excited over FreshBins’ expansion into the United States, he’s also disappointed the manufacturing facility will not be established in Australia.


“The exciting thing for us was the potential for manufacturing jobs for Victoria,” Sewell told StartupSmart.


“Every day you turn the news on and jobs are being lost across Victoria and right across Australia, and we were keen to get manufacturing jobs back in Australia.”


However, Texas is an ideal location for FreshBins, Sewell says.


“Texas has fared fairly well coming out of the global financial crisis, so there’s still a lot of investment there… There’s the hot weather as well, which is an issue for them,” he says.


In addition to Texas, councils in Florida, New York and California have shown interest in the technology.


“New York was a surprising one but [corporate advisory firm] Moore Stephens is fielding enquiries from New York for us,” Sewell says.


“We’re surprised with New York because it’s not as hot as what Texas and Florida would be, but it has a big push with the environment.”


According to Sewell, FreshBins is fielding enquiries from other areas with hot climates such as South East Asia and the Middle East.


“It is a surprise. I’m absolutely happy and excited with how it’s going to progress,” he says.


“I’m just more disappointed [about being unable to set up a local manufacturing facility] because I’m a true-blue Australian and I was so passionate about keeping manufacturing here.


“If we’re not careful in Australia, we’re going to become a service providing country instead of a manufacturing country. It’s heartbreaking actually.”


Sewell is urging other companies to get sound advice before investing in patented technology.


“My advice would be to make sure you have a really good solicitor and patent attorney, and make sure you understand how the patent fits and works,” he says.


“[You need to consider] where you want to take your technology into… If you’re going global, it’s going to cost a lot more money, a lot more time and a lot more effort.


“I can’t stress how important it is to have a good patent attorney.”


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