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 over a 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 must be a much 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 primary things we did was talk to a patent attorney to see 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 and the US, as well as the business also has 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 chances of success from the first day.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some other Inventhelp Office Locations before they spruik their idea to investors, people or perhaps friends. It may 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 probably be expensive. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe could be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike some other major markets, it does not have a grace period permitting public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of any subsequent patent application. That opens the way for the idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and america that can be done something regarding it, 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 in the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anybody can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business owners often think their idea is simply too very easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, it will 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 on the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications a year. 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 need the protection of your own IP and, particularly, patent protection in order to get a great return on the investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe because of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that may lead to potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a brand new unitary patent system that promises to become a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states using 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 got the possible ways 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 in to the European market, which boasts greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful consumer demand. “It’s extremely important for Australian businesses to know that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking just about Invent Help Patent Information,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) people in-house they need to attempt to get strategic business advice.”
The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts being a portion of total trade. In essence, the measure indicates just how a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well in terms of inputs into research and development, the US (5.1 %), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 percent) on IP royalties.
Your message? For the most part, Australian companies are not proficient at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, including medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the significance of intangible assets including brand name 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 becoming more important than kxwlfd assets and require appropriate consideration.
Overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by I Have An Invention in September 2017, endorses such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 % in the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) will not be included on their balance sheets; this suggests that investors are operating without insights right into a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.