Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, although not everyone thinks with enough concentration about protecting their big ideas. In 2001, plumber Brad McCarthy got stuck over 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 must be an improved way. In response, 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, 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 see how we could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now sold in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets including Australia, Europe and the US, and also 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 good idea cruel their chances of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some other How To Pitch An Idea To A Company before they spruik their idea to investors, the general 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 likely be 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 allowing for public disclosure of your 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 america that you can do something regarding it, 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 in 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 simple to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, 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 at the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications annually. 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 the IP and, particularly, patent protection in order to get an excellent return on the investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe as a result of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that may 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 will make it easy to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states with all the submission of a 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 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 opportunities 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 essential for Australian businesses to comprehend that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than Ideas For Inventions,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. If they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they ought to 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 a portion of total trade. Essentially, the measure indicates just how a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the united states (5.1 per cent), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 percent) on IP royalties.
The message? Typically, Australian companies are not great 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 make their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it is no longer only a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly important than kxwlfd assets and require appropriate consideration.
An overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Inventhelp Caveman Commercial in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent from the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) is not really included on the balance sheets; this indicates that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.