Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, however, 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 must be an improved way. In response, he invented How To Patent An Idea With Invent Help, 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. “One of the primary things we did was talk to a patent attorney to see how we could protect the thought,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It really is now available in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe as well as the US, and the business also 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 recommended cruel their odds of success from day 1.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the general public as well as friends. It may 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 too expensive. “The vast 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 allowing for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of Patent Ideas. That opens just how for an idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and the usa you can do something about it, provided you’re inside 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 business people often think their idea is just too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and simple, it will likely 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 annually. 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 require 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 because of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that can end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a brand new unitary patent system that promises to be a game changer. This makes it easy to get protection in up to 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of any single request to the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI in the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has got 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 opportunities to expand into the European market, which boasts greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and robust 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 essential to have an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they should attempt 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 portion of total trade. Essentially, the measure indicates how a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well when it comes to inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 %), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
The message? Typically, Australian companies usually are not good at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, like medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the value of intangible assets like logo 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 only a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly becoming more important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
A review of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent in the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) will not be included on their own balance sheets; this suggests that Inventhelp Store Products are operating without insights in to a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.