Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, although not everyone thinks with enough concentration 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 Invent Help Patent Invention, a lightweight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the super-tough nylon product, 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 talk with a patent attorney to find out how we could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is actually now purchased in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets including Australia, Europe as well as the US, and also 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 great idea cruel their odds of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the public 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 likely be too expensive. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it lacks a grace period permitting public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of Market An Invention Idea. That opens just how to have an idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and america that can be done something about it, 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 business owners often think their idea is simply too simple to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and simple, it will probably be copied and you should 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 annually. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian firms that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies must innovate – and protect their inventions. “You need the protection of your own IP and, in particular, patent protection to get a good return on your investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that will result in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This makes it easy to get protection in up to 26 participating European Union member states with the submission of the single request towards 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 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 in to the European market, which boasts more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and strong consumer demand. “It’s extremely important 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. Should they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they ought to try to get strategic business advice.”
The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come 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 is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well in terms of inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
The message? For the most part, Australian companies usually are not good at converting research into value and treat IP almost 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 including logo and data use, vyltsm build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it is not just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
Overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent from the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) is not included on the balance sheets; this suggests that Inventors Help are operating without insights in to a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.