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 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 a much better way. In response, 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. “Among the first things we did was talk 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 Reviews For Inventhelp in key markets including Australia, Europe and 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 likelihood of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, people or even friends. It can become 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 probably be too expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be considered a particular trap for exporters because, unlike a few other major markets, it does not have a grace period making it possible for public disclosure of the invention without affecting the validity of the subsequent patent application. That opens the way in which for an idea or product to become copied. “In Australia and the usa you can do something regarding it, 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 within 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 straightforward, 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 in the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications a year. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian firms that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies must innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of your 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 because of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that can 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 will make it easy to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of any single request towards the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, New Invention, Trade and FDI inside 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 possibilities to expand into the European market, which boasts more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and robust consumer demand. “It’s very important for Australian businesses to understand that there is a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. If they don’t have (IP) folks-house they ought to try to get strategic business advice.”
The price of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the Global Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as being a amount of total trade. In essence, the measure indicates the way a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well in terms of inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
Your message? As being a general rule, 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, like medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the importance of intangible assets including logo and data use, and make their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become a crucial business tool and governing it has stopped being just a matter of organising trademarks and How To Get An Idea Made Into A Prototype 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 such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent from the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) is not really included on their own jjnywy sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.