Intellectual property can be quite a crucial business tool, however, not everyone thinks hard enough about protecting their big ideas. In 2001, plumber Brad McCarthy got stuck on the remote beach in Cape York in north Queensland and spent about six hours getting his car by helping cover their a hand winch. He knew there should be a better way. Responding, 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, in which 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 find out how we could protect the idea,” 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 as well as the US, and the business also offers a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it uses for its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with a good idea cruel their likelihood of success from day 1.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some other Invention Advice 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), specifically, 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 permitting public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of any subsequent patent application. That opens just how for the idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and america that can be done 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 company owners often think their idea is simply too simple to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, it will 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 a year. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian companies that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies must innovate – and protect their inventions. “You require the protection of the IP and, particularly, patent protection in order 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 can end 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 for 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 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 to the European market, which boasts more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful 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 Inventhelp Product Development,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s extremely important to have an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) people in-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 amount 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 %) and Finland (2.9 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 per cent) on IP royalties.
The content? As 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 value of intangible assets such as logo and data use, and build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become a crucial business tool and governing it is not only a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly important than kxwlfd assets and require appropriate consideration.
Overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Inventhelp George Foreman in September 2017, endorses such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 % from the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) will not be included on their balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights right into a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.