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 should be a much better way. Responding, he invented Maxtrax, a lightweight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.

After designing the Inventhelp Reviews, he attended a Queensland Government business seminar, where the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “Among the first things we did was talk with a patent attorney to find out the way 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 including Australia, Europe and also the US, and also 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 recommended cruel their odds of success from day one.

Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the public or even 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 quite a particular trap for exporters because, unlike some other major markets, it lacks a grace period permitting public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens just how to have an idea or product to become copied. “In Australia and the United States you can do something regarding it, provided you’re in 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 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 simple, it will probably be copied and you have to get advice.”

Unitary patents on way – Margot Fröhlinger is principal director of Inventhelp Inventions Store, European and international legal affairs on the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications per 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 need the protection of the IP and, in particular, patent protection to get a great return on your investment,” she says.

Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe as a result of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that may lead to 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 possible to get protection in approximately 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 within 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 chances to expand in to the European market, which boasts a lot more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful consumer demand. “It’s essential for Australian businesses to comprehend that you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking just about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s extremely important to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they should make an effort to get strategic business advice.”

The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses comes as the international Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as being a portion of total trade. Essentially, 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 per cent), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.

Your message? Typically, 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 dppdwz Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the value of intangible assets including brand name and data use, and make their businesses around it.

In a knowledge-based economy, IP is becoming How To Get A Patent For An Idea and governing it has stopped being just 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 type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 % in 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.

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