Intellectual property can be quite a crucial business tool, although not everyone thinks hard enough about protecting their big ideas. In 2001, plumber Brad McCarthy got stuck over a 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 has to be an improved way. In response, 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, in which the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of 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 and 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 one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some other Invention Help Companies before they spruik their idea to investors, the general public or even 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 likely be expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike some other major markets, it lacks a grace period making it possible for public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of any subsequent patent application. That opens just how for an idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and the United States you can do something regarding it, provided you’re in 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 company owners often think their idea is too simple to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, it will be copied and you have to get advice.”
Unitary patents on way – Margot Fröhlinger is principal director of unitary patent, European and international legal affairs on the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications per 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 require the protection of the IP and, in particular, patent protection in order to get a good return on your own investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe because of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that may end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a new unitary patent system that promises to become a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in approximately 26 participating European Union member states with the submission of the single request towards the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI inside the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has 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 opportunities to expand into the European market, which boasts greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful consumer demand. “It’s very important for Australian businesses to understand that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than Inventhelp Stories,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they should try to get strategic business advice.”
The need for intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as being a percentage of total trade. Basically, the measure indicates just how a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the US (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
Your message? For the most part, Australian companies are certainly not proficient 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 importance of intangible assets such as logo and data use, and build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become 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.
Overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Inventhelp Phone Number in September 2017, endorses such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 % in the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) will not be included on their own balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.