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 six 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 Inventhelp Success, 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 speak 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 has 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 chances of success from the first day.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the public 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), particularly, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will probably be too costly. “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 lacks a grace period making it possible for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens just how to have an idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and the usa that can be done something about it, provided you’re within a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s far 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 company owners often think their idea is simply too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and simple, it will probably be copied and you need to get advice.”
Unitary patents on way – Margot Fröhlinger is principal director of Invention Idea, 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 companies 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 IP and, particularly, patent protection to acquire a great return on the 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 to be a game changer. This makes it easy to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states with the submission of any single request towards the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI within the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has 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 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 know that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking just about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. If they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they ought to attempt to get strategic business advice.”
The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the Global Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as being a portion of total trade. In essence, 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 per cent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 percent) on IP royalties.
The content? As a general rule, Australian companies are certainly not great at converting research into value and treat IP almost 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 like brand and data use, and build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has grown to be Inventhelp Store and governing it is no longer just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. 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 kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent in the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) is not really included on the balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights in to a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.