Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, but 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 a 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 the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “Among the first things we did was speak with How Do I Get A Patent 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 such as Australia, Europe as well as 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 likelihood 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 even friends. It can be considered a costly error. Bradley Postma, principal at patent and trademark attorney firm Cullens, says small and medium enterprises (SMEs), particularly, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will be too costly. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can become a particular trap for exporters because, unlike a few 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 america you can take action regarding it, provided you’re within a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s too late,” 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 company owners often think their idea is just 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 per 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 have to have the protection of the IP and, particularly, Inventhelp Headquarters in order to obtain 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 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 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 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 very important for Australian businesses to know that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) folks-house they should make an effort 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 a amount of total trade. Essentially, 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 US (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
The content? Being a general rule, Australian companies are certainly 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 brand and data use, and build their briaac around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has turned into a crucial business tool and governing it is not just a matter of organising trademarks and Patent Your Idea. Intangible assets are rapidly more and 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 per cent from the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) is not included on their own balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights in to a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.