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 the remote beach in Cape York in north Queensland and spent about six hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there must be a much better way. In response, he invented Patent An Invention, 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. “Among the first 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 now sold in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets including Australia, Europe as well as the US, and the business also has a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it uses of its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with a good idea cruel their chances of success from the first day.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the public as well as friends. It could 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 probably be too costly. “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 does not have a grace period allowing for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of Inventhelp Corporate Headquarters. That opens the way in which to have an idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and america that you can do something about this, provided you’re in 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 anybody can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business owners often think their idea is simply too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, it will be copied and you should 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 must innovate – and protect their inventions. “You need the protection of your own IP and, specifically, patent protection in order to get a great return on the investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe because of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that may result in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a new unitary patent system that promises to become a game changer. This will make it possible to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states with all the submission of a 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 provides 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 opportunities to expand into the European market, which boasts greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and robust consumer demand. “It’s essential 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 essential to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) people in-house they need to attempt to get strategic business advice.”
The need for intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the Global Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts being a amount of total trade. Basically, the measure indicates just how a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well in terms of inputs into research and development, the US (5.1 %), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 per cent) on IP royalties.
Your message? As a general rule, Australian companies are certainly not good at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, like medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the importance of intangible assets including brand name and data use, vyltsm build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it has stopped being only a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly more and more important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
Overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 % in the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) is not included on their balance sheets; this means that that Inventhelp Company Headquarters are operating without insights in to a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.