Intellectual property could be a crucial business tool, but not everyone thinks hard enough about protecting their big ideas. In 2001, plumber Brad McCarthy got stuck on the remote beach in Cape York in north Queensland and spent about 6 hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there must be an improved way. In reaction, he invented Maxtrax, a light-weight 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 first things we did was speak to a patent attorney to find out the way we could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now available 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 chances of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or other How To Prototype An Invention before they spruik their idea to investors, the public as well as friends. It could be a costly error. Bradley Postma, principal at patent and trademark attorney firm Cullens, says small, and medium enterprises (SMEs), in particular, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will likely be expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be quite a particular trap for exporters because, unlike some other major markets, it does not have a grace period permitting public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens the way in which for the idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and america that can be done something about this, 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 anybody can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business people often think their idea is simply 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 at 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 need the protection of your own IP and, in particular, patent protection in order to get a good 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 lead to potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a whole new unitary patent system that promises to become a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in approximately 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of a single request to the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI within 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 into the European market, which boasts more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and strong consumer demand. “It’s essential for Australian businesses to comprehend that there exists a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than Can I Patent An Idea,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential to have an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) people in-house they ought to attempt to get strategic business advice.”
The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts being a portion of total trade. Basically, 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 %), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 per cent) on IP royalties.
The content? Typically, Australian companies usually are not great 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 like brand name and data use, and make their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has turned into a crucial business tool and governing it is not just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly important than kxwlfd assets and require appropriate consideration.
Overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Product Idea in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent in the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) is not included on their own balance sheets; this suggests that investors are operating without insights in to a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.