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 response, he invented How To Patent Ideas, a light-weight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the super-tough nylon product, he attended a Queensland Government business seminar, in which the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “Among the first things we did was speak to a patent attorney to see how we could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It really is now purchased in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets including Australia, Europe and also 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 good idea cruel their chances of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or 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), specifically, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will 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 does not have a grace period permitting public disclosure of the invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens just how for the idea or product to become copied. “In Australia and the usa that can be done something regarding it, provided you’re within a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s too far gone,” 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 simple, 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 at the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications a year. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian firms that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies need to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You require the protection of your own IP and, in particular, patent protection in order to get a great return on your own investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe as a result of Inventhelp Successful Inventions processes across multiple jurisdictions that may end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a new unitary patent system that promises to be 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 to 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 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 possibilities to expand into the European market, which boasts a lot more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and robust consumer demand. “It’s very important for Australian businesses to understand that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. If they don’t have (IP) folks-house they need to attempt 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 amount of total trade. In essence, the measure indicates how a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well in terms of inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
The content? Typically, Australian companies usually are not great at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, including medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the importance of intangible assets like brand and data use, and make rtaotl businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, Inventhelp Success has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it is not 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 such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 % from the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) is not really included on their own balance sheets; this indicates that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.