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 must be a much better way. In response, he invented Maxtrax, a lightweight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the Inventhelp Commercial, he attended a Queensland Government business seminar, where the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the first things we did was talk to a patent attorney to view how we could protect the concept,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is actually now available in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe as well as 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 odds of success from day one.
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), particularly, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will be too expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe could be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike some other major markets, it does not have a grace period permitting public disclosure of the 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 america that can be done something regarding it, provided you’re inside a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s far too late,” 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 business people often think their idea is 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 companies that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies need to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of your own IP and, in particular, patent protection in order to get an excellent return on your own investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe because of Inventhelp Invention News across multiple jurisdictions that can end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a whole new unitary patent system that promises as 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 any single request to the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI in the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has 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 greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and strong consumer demand. “It’s very important for Australian businesses to know that there is a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s essential with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) folks-house they need to make an effort 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 US (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.
Your message? 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, such as medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the value of intangible assets including logo and data use, and wksgqs their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, How To Patent An Idea With Invent Help has become 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.
Overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent of the companies’ value (regarding 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.