Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, however, not everyone thinks with enough concentration about protecting their big ideas. In 2001, plumber Brad McCarthy got stuck over 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 an improved way. Responding, 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 advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the primary things we did was speak to a patent attorney to find out how 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 such as Australia, Europe as well as the US, and also 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 great idea cruel their odds of success from day 1.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or other Inventhelp Pittsburgh Headquarters before they spruik their idea to investors, people as well as 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 probably be expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it lacks a grace period permitting public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of the subsequent patent application. That opens the way for the idea or product to become copied. “In Australia and the usa that you can do something about this, provided you’re inside 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 owners often think their idea is just too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and simple, it will likely 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 firms that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies need to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You need the protection of your own IP and, specifically, patent protection to acquire a great return on the investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that will end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a brand new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This will make it possible to get protection in up to 26 participating European Union member states using 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 possibilities to expand to the European market, which boasts greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and strong consumer demand. “It’s essential for Australian businesses to comprehend that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking just about How To Submit A Patent,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) folks-house they need to try to get strategic business advice.”
The price 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 portion of total trade. Essentially, the measure indicates the way a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 percent) on IP royalties.
The message? As 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, including medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the importance of intangible assets including brand and data use, and make their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become a crucial business tool and governing it has stopped being just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly more and more important than kxwlfd assets and require appropriate consideration.
An overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by New Invention Ideas in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 % from the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) is not really included on their own balance sheets; this indicates that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.