Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, although 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 should be a much better way. In response, 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, in which the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the first things we did was talk to a patent attorney to view how we could protect the concept,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It really is now sold in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has How To Get A Patent With Inventhelp 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 odds of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, people or even friends. It can be 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 likely be expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be considered a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it does not have a grace period allowing for public disclosure of the invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens just how for the idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and the usa you can make a move 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 in the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business owners often think their idea is too simple to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, 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 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 require the protection of your own IP and, specifically, patent protection in order to acquire a good return on your own investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that can lead to potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a brand new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states with the submission of a single request to the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, How To File A Patent With Inventhelp, Trade and FDI inside the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has the potential 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 extremely important for Australian businesses to comprehend that there exists a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking just about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential to have an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. If they don’t have (IP) folks-house they need to make an effort to get strategic business advice.”
The price of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as a amount of total trade. In essence, the measure indicates just how a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the US (5.1 per cent), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 per cent) on IP royalties.
The message? Being a general rule, 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 significance of intangible assets such as brand name and data use, and build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it is not just a point of organising trademarks and Invention Help Companies. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly 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 percent of the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) is not included on their jjnywy sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights right into a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.