Intellectual property can 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 by helping cover their a hand winch. He knew there should be a better way. In response, he invented Maxtrax, a light-weight 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. “Among the first things we did was talk with a patent attorney to view the way we 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 such as Australia, Europe as well as the US, and also 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 good idea cruel their chances of success from day 1.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any other Inventhelp Inventor Stories before they spruik their idea to investors, the general public 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), in particular, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will probably be too costly. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe could be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike some other major markets, it lacks a grace period making it possible for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of the subsequent patent application. That opens just how for an idea or product to become copied. “In Australia and the United States that you can do something about it, provided you’re in a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s too late,” 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 company owners often think their idea is just too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, it will likely 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 a year. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian firms that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies have to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of your IP and, particularly, patent protection to get a great return on your investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that can result 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 makes it easy to get protection in up to 26 participating European Union member states with all the submission of a 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 chances to expand into the European market, which boasts more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and robust consumer demand. “It’s essential for Australian businesses to know that there is a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than Inventions,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) folks-house they ought to make an effort to get strategic business advice.”
The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the Global Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as being a percentage of total trade. Basically, the measure indicates the way a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well when it comes to inputs into research and development, the US (5.1 %), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
Your message? For the most part, Australian companies usually are not great at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, including medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the significance of intangible assets such as brand name and data use, and build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it is no longer just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly more and more important than kxwlfd assets and require appropriate consideration.
An overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Inventhelp Caveman Commercials in September 2017, endorses such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent of the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) will not be included on the balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights right into a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.