Intellectual property could be a crucial business tool, although not everyone thinks with enough concentration about protecting their big ideas. In 2001, plumber Brad McCarthy got stuck on the remote beach in Cape York in north Queensland and spent about six hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there should be an improved way. In reaction, he invented Maxtrax, a lightweight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the super-tough nylon product, he attended a Queensland Government business seminar, where the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the primary things we did was talk to a patent attorney to see how you could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now available in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets including Australia, Europe and also the US, as well as the business also has a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it uses for its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with a great idea cruel their odds of success from day 1.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or other Find A Patent Attorney before they spruik their idea to investors, people as well as friends. It can be a costly error. Bradley Postma, principal at patent and trademark attorney firm Cullens, says small, and medium enterprises (SMEs), specifically, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will be too expensive. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be quite a particular trap for exporters because, unlike a few other major markets, it lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of any subsequent patent application. That opens the way to have an idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and the United States you can do something regarding it, provided you’re within a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s too far gone,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves within the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business people often think their idea is too simple to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, it will be copied and you need to get advice.”
Unitary patents on way – Margot Fröhlinger is principal director of unitary patent, European and international legal affairs at the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications per year. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian companies that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies need to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of the IP and, in particular, patent protection to acquire an excellent return on your investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that may end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a brand new unitary patent system that promises to become a game changer. This will make it easy to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states with the submission of any single request to the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI within the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has got the possible ways to increase trade and foreign direct investment in high-tech sectors, delivering annual gains of €14.6 billion ($A22.8 billion) in trade and €1.8 billion (A$2.81 billion) in foreign direct investment.
Fröhlinger believes Australian businesses across all sectors have possibilities to expand into the European market, which boasts greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and strong consumer demand. “It’s very important for Australian businesses to know that there is a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only about Invention Patent,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. If they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they should attempt to get strategic business advice.”
The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts being a amount of total trade. Basically, the measure indicates how a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
Your message? As a general rule, Australian companies are certainly not great at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, like medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the significance of intangible assets like brand name and data use, and make their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has turned into a crucial business tool and governing it is no longer only a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly important than kxwlfd assets and require appropriate consideration.
An overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Inventions Ideas in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent in the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) is not really included on their own balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights in to a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.