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 must be an improved way. In response, he invented Idea Patent, 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 the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “Among the first things we did was talk to a patent attorney to find out how you could protect the concept,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It really is now purchased 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 any other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the general public or perhaps friends. It may 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 be too expensive. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe could be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it does not have a grace period permitting public disclosure of an 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 the United States that you can do something about it, provided you’re in a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s far too late,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves within the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and everyone 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 simple, it will probably be copied and you should 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 IP and, particularly, patent protection to acquire a great return on your investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to How To Start An Invention Idea processes across multiple jurisdictions that may result in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a whole new unitary patent system that promises to be a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in approximately 26 participating European Union member states with all the submission of a single request for the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI within the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system provides 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 to the European market, which boasts more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful consumer demand. “It’s very important for Australian businesses to understand 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) individuals-house they should attempt to get strategic business advice.”
The need for intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as being a portion of total trade. Essentially, the measure indicates the way 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 percent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 per cent) on IP royalties.
The content? For the most part, 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, like medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the importance of intangible assets including logo and data use, and make rtaotl businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, Inventhelp Invention Service has turned 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.
An overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent of the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) will not be included on their balance sheets; this indicates that investors are operating without insights in to a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.