Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, however, 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 6 hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there has to be an improved 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 advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “Among the first things we did was talk to How To Obtain A Patent to find out the way we could protect the thought,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is actually now available in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe and 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 some other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the general 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 likely be expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can become a particular trap for exporters because, unlike a few other major markets, it lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of the invention without affecting the validity of the 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 in 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 company owners often think their idea is too very easy 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 have to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of the IP and, in particular, How To Start An Invention Idea in order to get a good return on your investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe because of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that can end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a whole new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This makes it easy to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of any single request to the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI in the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has 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 robust consumer demand. “It’s very 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. Should they don’t have (IP) folks-house they ought to make an effort to get strategic business advice.”
The need for intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the international Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts being a percentage of total trade. In essence, the measure indicates how a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the US (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
The content? As a general rule, Australian companies usually are not good at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, such as medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the importance of intangible assets such as logo and data use, and make their briaac around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has turned into a crucial business tool and governing it has stopped being just dependent on organising trademarks and Prototype Inventhelp. 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 type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent in the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) is not included on their own balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.