Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, but 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 much better way. In response, he invented Maxtrax, a light-weight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.

After designing the Inventhelp Pittsburgh, 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 find out the way we could protect the thought,” 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 as well as the US, as well as the business even offers a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it uses of its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with recommended cruel their likelihood 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 perhaps friends. It may 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 likely be too costly. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.

Europe can be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike a few other major markets, it lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of any subsequent patent application. That opens the way in which for an idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and the United States that you can do something regarding it, provided you’re in 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 anybody can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business people often think their idea is simply too very easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, it will likely 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 firms that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies need to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You need the protection of the IP and, specifically, patent protection to get a good return on your investment,” she says.

Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to How To Get A Patent On An Idea 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 to be a game changer. This makes it easy to get protection in approximately 26 participating European Union member states with all the submission of the single request towards the EPO.

A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI inside the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has got 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 a lot more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and strong 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 to have an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they ought to make an effort to get strategic business advice.”

The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the international Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as being a percentage of total trade. In essence, the measure indicates 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.

The message? As a general rule, Australian companies usually are not good at converting research into value and treat IP almost as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, such as medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the importance of intangible assets such as brand and data use, and wksgqs their businesses around it.

In a knowledge-based economy, Inventhelp Successful Inventions has turned into a crucial business tool and governing it has stopped being only a matter of organising trademarks and patents. 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 such a sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent in the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) will not be included on their own balance sheets; this indicates that investors are operating without insights right into a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.

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