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 by helping cover their a hand winch. He knew there must be a much better way. In response, 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 the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the first things we did was speak to a patent attorney to view how we could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now available in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets including Australia, Europe and the US, as well as the business even 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 day 1.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or other Inventhelp Inventions Store 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 expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe could be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of any subsequent patent application. That opens the way in which for an idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and the usa you can do something about it, provided you’re in 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 everyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business people often think their idea is too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and simple, it will 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 in the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications annually. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian businesses that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies need to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of the IP and, specifically, patent protection to get a good 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 may end in 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 easy to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states with all the submission of any single request for the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI inside 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 to 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 know that there exists a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking just about Review For Inventhelp,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s extremely important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) people in-house they need to make an effort to get strategic business advice.”
The need for intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the international Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts 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 %), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 percent) on IP royalties.
Your message? Typically, Australian companies are certainly not great at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, such as medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the value of intangible assets like brand 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 just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly important than kxwlfd assets and require appropriate consideration.
Overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Inventhelp Product Development in September 2017, endorses this type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 % of the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) will not be included on their own balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights in to a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.