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 6 hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there has to be a much better 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, where advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the primary things we did was talk with a patent attorney to see how you could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is actually now sold in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has Inventhelp Invention News in key markets like Australia, Europe and the US, and also the business even offers a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it uses of its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with a great idea cruel their odds 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 even friends. It can 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 be too expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be considered a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens just how for an idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and america you can make a move regarding it, provided you’re inside a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s too late,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves in the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that company owners often think their idea is simply too very easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and simple, it will likely be copied and you should get advice.”
Unitary patents on way – Margot Fröhlinger is principal director of unitary patent, European and international legal affairs in 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 have to have the protection of your own IP and, in particular, patent protection in order to get a good 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 new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in approximately 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of a single request to the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, How To Obtain A Patent, Trade and FDI within the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has got the potential 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 strong consumer demand. “It’s very important for Australian businesses to understand that there exists a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they ought to try to get strategic business advice.”
The need for intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the Global Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts being a portion of total trade. In essence, the measure indicates the way a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the united states (5.1 per cent), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 percent) on IP royalties.
The content? Being a general rule, Australian companies usually are not good 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 significance of intangible assets like brand name and data use, and make their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become a crucial business tool and governing it is not just dependent on organising trademarks and Inventhelp George Foreman Commercial. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly 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 type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 % of the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) is not included on the jjnywy sheets; this indicates that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.