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. Responding, he invented Maxtrax, a lightweight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.

After designing the Inventhelp Intromark, 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 speak to a patent attorney to find out how you could protect the thought,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It really is now purchased 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 ways to use its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with a great idea cruel their chances of success from day 1.

Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some 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), particularly, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will probably be expensive. “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 does not have a grace period making it possible for public disclosure of your invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens just how for an idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and america that can be done something regarding it, provided you’re within a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s far 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 people often think their idea is too very easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, it will be copied and you should get advice.”

Unitary patents on way – Margot Fröhlinger is principal director of What Is A 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 acquire 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 will result in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a brand new unitary patent system that promises to become a game changer. This makes it easy to get protection in approximately 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of the single request for 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 know that there is a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. When they don’t have (IP) individuals-house they need to attempt to get strategic business advice.”

The value of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as a percentage of total trade. Essentially, the measure indicates the way a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well when it comes to inputs into research and development, the US (5.1 percent), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 per cent) on IP royalties.

The content? For the most part, 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, such as medical device dppdwz Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the significance of intangible assets such as brand and data use, and make their businesses around it.

In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become Inventhelp Inventors and governing it is not just 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 this kind of sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent of the companies’ value (in regards to a$550 billion) is not really included on their balance sheets; this means that that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.

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