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 an improved way. In response, he invented Ideas For Inventions, a lightweight 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. “One of the first things we did was speak to a patent attorney to view 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 including Australia, Europe and also the US, and also the business even offers 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 some other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the general public or perhaps friends. It may 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 expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike a few other major markets, it does not have a grace period allowing for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of I Have An Invention. That opens just how for an idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and the United States you can do something about this, 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 everyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business owners often think their idea is too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, 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 on the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications annually. 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 need the protection of the IP and, in particular, patent protection to get a good 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 can end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a whole new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This will make it possible to get protection in approximately 26 participating European Union member states with the submission of a single request to 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 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 comprehend that there is a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only about patents,” 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 need to make an effort to get strategic business advice.”
The value of 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 amount 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 %), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
Your message? Typically, Australian companies usually are not great 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 such as brand and data use, vyltsm build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it is not just 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 kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent in the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) is not included on their own balance sheets; this means that that Inventhelp Invention Stories are operating without insights in to a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.