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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 the 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 better way. In response, he invented Patent Invention, a lightweight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.

After designing the super-tough nylon product, he attended a Queensland Government business seminar, where the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the primary things we did was talk with a patent attorney to find out how we could protect the thought,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now purchased in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe and the US, and the business also has 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 day 1.

Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, people as well as friends. It may 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 be too costly. “The vast 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 an invention without affecting the validity of Inventhelp Office Locations. That opens the way to have an idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and the usa that can be done something about it, provided you’re inside 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 anyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business owners often think their idea is too simple to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and simple, 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 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 have to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You require the protection of your IP and, particularly, patent protection to get a great return on the investment,” she says.

Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe because of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that will lead to 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 easy to get protection in approximately 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of any 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 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 opportunities to expand into the European market, which boasts more than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful consumer demand. “It’s very important for Australian businesses to know that there exists a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important to get an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) folks-house they need to try 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 being a amount of total trade. In essence, the measure indicates just how a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well in terms of inputs into research and development, the usa (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 %) on IP royalties.

Your message? Typically, Australian companies are certainly not good at converting research into value and treat IP nearly as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, including medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the value of intangible assets including logo and data use, vyltsm build their businesses around it.

In a knowledge-based economy, IP has turned into a crucial business tool 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.

A review of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 percent of the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) is not really included on the balance sheets; this suggests that Inventhelp Company Headquarters are operating without insights right into a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.