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 six hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there must be a better way. In response, he invented Inventhelp Pittsburgh Headquarters, 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 view how you could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is actually now available in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets including Australia, Europe as well as the US, as well as the business also offers a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it ways to use its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with a good idea cruel their likelihood of success from the first day.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, people as well as friends. It can 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 be too expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of How To Get A Patent For An Idea. That opens just how to have an idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and the United States you can do something about this, 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 inside the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and everyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business people often think their idea is just too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, it will be copied and you should 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 must innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of the IP and, particularly, patent protection to acquire an excellent return on your own investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe as a result of complex patent processes 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 to be a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in approximately 26 participating European Union member states with the submission of the 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 got the potential 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 into the European market, which boasts greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful consumer demand. “It’s extremely 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 extremely important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they should try 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 being a percentage of total trade. Essentially, the measure indicates the way a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well when it comes to inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 per cent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 per cent) on IP royalties.
Your message? For the most part, Australian companies usually are not good 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 significance of intangible assets like brand 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 more and more important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
A review of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 % of the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) is not really included on the balance sheets; this suggests that Inventhelp Number are operating without insights in to a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.