Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, however, 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 must be a better way. In reaction, he invented Maxtrax, a light-weight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the Invention Ideas, 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 talk to a patent attorney to find out how we could protect the thought,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It really is now sold in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets such as Australia, Europe and the US, and the business also 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 a great idea cruel their odds of success from day 1.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, people or perhaps friends. It can 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 be expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be quite a particular trap for exporters because, unlike a few other major markets, it lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of the invention without affecting the validity of the subsequent patent application. That opens the way in which to have an idea or product to become copied. “In Australia and the United States that you can do something about this, provided you’re inside a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s far 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 business people often think their idea is simply too very easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, it will probably be copied and you have to get advice.”
Unitary patents on way – Margot Fröhlinger is principal director of File A Patent, European and international legal affairs on the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications annually. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian companies that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies need to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You need the protection of the IP and, particularly, patent protection in order to get a great 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 end 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 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 within 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 chances to expand into the European market, which boasts a lot more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and strong consumer demand. “It’s very important for Australian businesses to comprehend that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) people in-house they ought to make an effort to get strategic business advice.”
The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the international 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 united states (5.1 %), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
Your message? As a general rule, Australian companies are not good at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, including medical device dppdwz Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the significance of intangible assets like brand and data use, and make their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has grown to be How To Patent A Product Idea and governing it is no longer only a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly becoming more important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
A review of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 % from the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) is not really included on their balance sheets; this suggests that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.