Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, however, not everyone thinks hard enough 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 six hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there has to be a better way. Responding, he invented Maxtrax, a light-weight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the How To Start An Invention, he attended a Queensland Government business seminar, where advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the first things we did was talk to a patent attorney to find out how we could protect the concept,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now purchased in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe and the US, and the business even offers a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it uses for its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with recommended cruel their likelihood of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the public or perhaps 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 likely be too expensive. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it does not have a grace period allowing for public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens just how to have an idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and america that you can do something about this, provided you’re inside a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s far too late,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves inside the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and everyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business people often think their idea is simply too very easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and simple, it will be copied and you need to get advice.”
Unitary patents on way – Margot Fröhlinger is principal director of Inventhelp Inventor Service, European and international legal affairs on 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 need to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of your IP and, specifically, patent protection to acquire a great return on the investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that may result in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a brand new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in up to 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of the single request towards the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI in the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system provides the possibility 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 in to 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 comprehend that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s extremely important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they ought to make an effort to get strategic business advice.”
The need for intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as 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 per cent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
Your message? As a general rule, Australian companies are not proficient at converting research into value and treat IP nearly as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, such as medical device dppdwz Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the significance of intangible assets like brand name and data use, and build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become Invent Help Invention Ideas and governing it is no longer just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly becoming more important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
An overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent of the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) will not be included on the balance sheets; this suggests that investors are operating without insights in to a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.