Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, although 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 better way. In response, he invented Inventhelp Commercial, 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 talk with a patent attorney to see the way we could protect the concept,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now purchased in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe as well as the US, and the business also 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 odds 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 could 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 probably be too costly. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be quite a particular trap for exporters because, unlike a few other major markets, it lacks a grace period permitting public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of How To Pitch An Idea To A Company. That opens the way in which to have an idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and the United States that can be done something about this, provided you’re in a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s too far gone,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves within the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business owners often think their idea is just too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, 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 per 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 need the protection of your own IP and, in particular, patent protection in order to get a great return on your own 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 brand 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 any single request towards 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 possible ways 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 a lot more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and strong consumer demand. “It’s extremely important for Australian businesses to understand that there exists a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential to have an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. If they don’t have (IP) people in-house they should try to get strategic business advice.”
The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as a amount of total trade. Basically, the measure indicates just how a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well when it comes 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 are certainly not good at converting research into value and treat IP almost 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 brand name and data use, vyltsm build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it is not only a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly becoming 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 in the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) is not really included on their own balance sheets; this indicates that How To File A Patent are operating without insights right into a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.