Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, but 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 an improved way. In response, he invented Maxtrax, a lightweight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the Ideas For Inventions, he attended a Queensland Government business seminar, where advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “Among the first things we did was talk to a patent attorney to view how you could protect the thought,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now available in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe and also the US, and also 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 a good idea cruel their odds of success from the first day.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, people as well as 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 likely be too expensive. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe could be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike a few other major markets, it does not have a grace period permitting public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of any subsequent patent application. That opens the way in which to have an idea or product to become copied. “In Australia and the United States that you can do something about this, 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 in the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that company owners often think their idea is just too simple 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 Inventhelp Caveman, European and international legal affairs at the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications a year. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian businesses that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies have to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You need the protection of your IP and, in particular, patent protection 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 will 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 easy to get protection in up to 26 participating European Union member states with all the submission of a 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 has 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 chances to expand to 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 there is a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking just about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s extremely important to have an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) folks-house they need to try to get strategic business advice.”
The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the international Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts being a percentage of total trade. Basically, the measure indicates the way a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well when it comes to inputs into research and development, the united states (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 per cent) on IP royalties.
The content? For the most part, 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 dppdwz Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the significance of intangible assets including logo and data use, and make their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become Inventhelp Tech 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.
A review of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent from the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) is not really included on the balance sheets; this indicates that investors are operating without insights in to a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.