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 an improved way. In response, he invented What To Do With An Invention Idea, 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 primary things we did was speak to a patent attorney to find out the way we could protect the thought,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It really is now available in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe and the US, and also the business also has a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it uses for its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with recommended cruel their chances of success from day 1.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the public or even 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 be expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe could be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike some other major markets, it does not have a grace period making it possible for public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of a 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 late,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves inside 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 very easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, it will 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 on the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications a 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 have to have the protection of the IP and, specifically, patent protection to acquire a great return on your own investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe as a result of Inventhelp Wiki processes across multiple jurisdictions that may 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 the 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 in to the European market, which boasts a lot more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful consumer demand. “It’s very important for Australian businesses to comprehend that there is a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only 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 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 as a amount of total trade. In essence, the measure indicates how a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 %), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
The message? For the most part, Australian companies are not proficient at converting research into value and treat IP almost 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 like brand name and data use, and make rtaotl businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, Inventhelp Pittsburgh has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it is not only 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 type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent from the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) is not included on the balance sheets; this indicates that investors are operating without insights right into a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.