Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, although 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 six hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there has to be an improved way. In response, he invented Invent Help Invention Idea, 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 a patent attorney to see the way we could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is actually now available in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe as well as the US, and 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 chances of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the general public or even friends. It may be a costly error. Bradley Postma, principal at patent and trademark attorney firm Cullens, says small and medium enterprises (SMEs), specifically, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will likely be expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be quite a particular trap for exporters because, unlike some other major markets, it lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of Inventhelp Patent Services. That opens the way to have an idea or product to become copied. “In Australia and the United States that can be done something about it, provided you’re within a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s far too late,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves inside the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anybody can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that company owners often think their idea is simply too very easy 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 on 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, particularly, patent protection to get an excellent return on your investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that may lead to potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a whole new unitary patent system that promises to become a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in up to 26 participating European Union member states with all 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 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 robust 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 to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) folks-house they should try to get strategic business advice.”
The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the Global Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as being a amount of total trade. Basically, the measure indicates the way a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
Your message? Typically, Australian companies 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 significance of intangible assets including logo and data use, vyltsm build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become a crucial business tool and governing it has stopped being 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 such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent in the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) is not included on the balance sheets; this indicates that Inventhelp New Products are operating without insights in to a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.