Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, but not everyone thinks with enough concentration about protecting their big ideas. In 2001, plumber Brad McCarthy got stuck on a remote beach in Cape York in north Queensland and spent about 6 hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there should be a better way. In response, he invented Inventor Information, a lightweight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the super-tough nylon product, he attended a Queensland Government business seminar, where advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the primary things we did was speak to a patent attorney to see the way we could protect the thought,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now sold in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe and the US, as well as the business also has a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it ways to use its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with a great idea cruel their likelihood of success from day 1.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, people as well as friends. It could be a costly error. Bradley Postma, principal at patent and trademark attorney firm Cullens, says small, and medium enterprises (SMEs), particularly, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will probably be too expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of the invention without affecting the validity of Technology. That opens just how for an idea or product to become copied. “In Australia and the usa you can do something about it, provided you’re in a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s far too late,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves in the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anybody can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business people often think their idea is simply too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, it will be copied and you should 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 a year. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian firms that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies must innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of your own IP and, in particular, patent protection to get an excellent return on the investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe as a result of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that will lead to potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of a single request towards the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI within the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system provides 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 essential for Australian businesses to know that there is a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important to have an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) folks-house they ought to make an effort to get strategic business advice.”
The need for intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the international Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts being a percentage of total trade. Essentially, the measure indicates the way a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well in terms of inputs into research and development, the united states (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 per cent) on IP royalties.
The message? Typically, Australian companies are certainly not proficient at converting research into value and treat IP nearly as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, like medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the importance of intangible assets like brand name and data use, vyltsm build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has turned into a crucial business tool and governing it is not only a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
A review of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent of the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) is not included on their balance sheets; this suggests that Inventhelp Patent Invention are operating without insights right into a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.