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 6 hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there has to be a much better 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 the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the first things we did was talk to How To Pitch An Invention Idea To A Company to view how we could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is actually now purchased in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe and also the US, and 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 a great idea cruel their odds 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), specifically, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will likely be too costly. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can become a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it does not have a grace period permitting public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens just how to have an idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and the usa you can make a move about 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 inside the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business owners often think their idea is simply too simple to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, it will probably 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 at the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications a year. 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, particularly, Inventhelp Intromark in order to obtain a good return on your own investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe as a result of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that can lead to potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a new unitary patent system that promises to become a game changer. This makes it easy to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states with the submission of the single request for 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 chances to expand into the European market, which boasts a lot more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful consumer demand. “It’s essential for Australian businesses to know that there exists a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) individuals-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 international Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as a amount of total trade. Essentially, the measure indicates the way a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well when it comes to inputs into research and development, the US (5.1 %), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 percent) on IP royalties.
The content? Being a general rule, Australian companies are not good at converting research into value and treat IP nearly as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, like medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the value of intangible assets including brand and data use, and build their briaac around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has turned into a crucial business tool and governing it is no longer just dependent on organising trademarks and How To File A Patent With Inventhelp. Intangible assets are rapidly more and more important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
An overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 % of the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) is not really included on their own balance sheets; this suggests that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.