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 response, he invented Maxtrax, a lightweight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the Invention Advice, 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 talk with a patent attorney to view the way we could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It really is now sold in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe and also the US, as well as 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 likelihood of success from the first day.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some 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), specifically, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will likely be too 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 making it possible for public disclosure of the invention without affecting the validity of the subsequent patent application. That opens the way for the idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and the United States that 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 within the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and everyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that company owners often think their idea is simply too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and simple, it will 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 companies 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 IP and, specifically, patent protection to acquire a good return on your own investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to Invent Help Invention Ideas across multiple jurisdictions that will end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This makes it easy to get protection in approximately 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 within the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system provides 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 in to the European market, which boasts more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and strong consumer demand. “It’s essential for Australian businesses to comprehend that there is 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. If they don’t have (IP) individuals-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 Global Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as a percentage of total trade. Essentially, 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 %) and Finland (2.9 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
The content? For the most part, Australian companies usually are not proficient at converting research into value and treat IP nearly as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, including medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the value of intangible assets like brand and data use, and wksgqs their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, Inventions has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it is no longer just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. 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 this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent in the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) is not really included on their balance sheets; this suggests that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.