Intellectual property could 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 six hours getting his car by helping cover their a hand winch. He knew there must be a much better way. In reaction, 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, where advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the primary things we did was talk to a patent attorney to view 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 like 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 chances of success from the first day.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some other Invention Help before they spruik their idea to investors, the general public as well as 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 too costly. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe could be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike some other major markets, it lacks a grace period permitting public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens the way to have an idea or product to become copied. “In Australia and the usa that you can do something about this, provided you’re in a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s too far gone,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves inside 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 very easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and simple, it will probably be copied and you have 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 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 require the protection of your IP and, particularly, patent protection in order to get a good return on the investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe because of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that can 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 approximately 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of the single request to 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 chances 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 comprehend that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking just about How To Obtain A Patent,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) folks-house they should make an effort to get strategic business advice.”
The price of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as a portion of total trade. In essence, 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 per cent) and Finland (2.9 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
The message? Typically, Australian companies are certainly not proficient 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 like 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 no longer just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly more and more important than kxwlfd assets and require appropriate consideration.
An overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Inventhelp George Foreman Commercial in September 2017, endorses such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent from the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) is not included on their own balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.