Make A New Invention..

Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, however, 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 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. “One of the primary things we did was speak to Inventor Information to see the way we 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 such as Australia, Europe and also the US, and also the business even 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 great idea cruel their likelihood of success from day one.

Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or 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 likely be too costly. “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 lacks a grace period permitting public disclosure of an 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 the usa 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 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 simple, 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 on the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications annually. 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 need the protection of your IP and, particularly, File A Patent in order to obtain 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 end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a brand new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This makes it possible to get protection in up to 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of a single request to the EPO.

A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI inside the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system provides 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 chances to expand into the European market, which boasts greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and robust consumer demand. “It’s extremely important for Australian businesses to understand that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s extremely important to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. If they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they need to attempt to get strategic business advice.”

The need for intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the international Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as a percentage of total trade. In essence, the measure indicates just how 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 per cent) easily outperform Australia (.3 percent) on IP royalties.

The content? As a general rule, Australian companies are certainly not proficient 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 significance of intangible assets including logo and data use, and build their briaac around it.

In a knowledge-based economy, IP has turned into a crucial business tool and governing it is not just a matter of organising trademarks and Cool Invention Ideas. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly 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 type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent from the companies’ value (regarding a$550 billion) will not be included on their own balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights right into a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.