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 a better way. In reaction, he invented Maxtrax, 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 Inventhelp Company News to see how we could protect the concept,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It really is now sold in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets including Australia, Europe and also the US, and 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 recommended cruel their odds of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the public or even 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 be expensive. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be considered a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it lacks a grace period permitting public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of the subsequent patent application. That opens just how to have an idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and america you can make a move about it, provided you’re inside 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 anyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business people often think their idea is just too simple to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, it will probably 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 at the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications per year. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian firms that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies need to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of your own IP and, specifically, How To Invent A Product in order to obtain a good return on your investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe as a result of 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 will make it possible to get protection in up to 26 participating European Union member states with all the submission of a 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 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 possibilities to expand into the European market, which boasts more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful consumer demand. “It’s essential for Australian businesses to understand that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s extremely important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) people in-house they should 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. Essentially, the measure indicates the way a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 per cent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
Your message? Being a general rule, Australian companies usually are not proficient 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 importance of intangible assets such as logo and data use, and build their briaac around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become a crucial business tool and governing it is no longer just dependent on organising trademarks and How Do You Patent An Idea. Intangible assets are rapidly more and more important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
Overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 % from the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) will not be included on the balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.