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Intellectual property can be quite 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 six hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there should be an improved way. In response, he invented Product Idea, a light-weight 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 first things we did was speak to a patent attorney to find out the way we could protect the thought,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now sold in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets such as Australia, Europe as well as the US, as well as 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 good idea cruel their odds of success from the first day.

Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the general public or perhaps friends. It could be 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 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 lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of any subsequent patent application. That opens just how for an idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and america that you can do something regarding it, provided you’re inside a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s too far gone,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves inside 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 very easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, it will probably 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 at the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications annually. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian businesses 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, particularly, patent protection in order to get an excellent return on the investment,” she says.

Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe because of Inventhelp Caveman processes across multiple jurisdictions that may end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a whole new unitary patent system that promises to become 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 the single request towards 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 into the European market, which boasts more 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 only about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s extremely important to have an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. If they don’t have (IP) people in-house they need 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 being a portion of total trade. Essentially, the measure indicates the way 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 percent), Japan (4.7 per cent) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 per cent) on IP royalties.

The message? As a general rule, Australian companies usually are not great at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, including medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the significance of intangible assets like logo and data use, and make rtaotl businesses around it.

In a knowledge-based economy, Inventhelp George Foreman Commercials has developed into a crucial business tool and governing it is no longer just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly 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 per cent in the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) will not be included on their own balance sheets; this suggests that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.


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