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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 better way. In response, he invented Inventhelp Reviews, 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 first things we did was speak to a patent attorney to see the way we could protect the idea,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now purchased in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets including Australia, Europe and also the US, as well as the business also 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 chances of success from the first day.

Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or any 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), particularly, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will probably be too expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.

Europe can be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it does not have a grace period permitting public disclosure of the invention without affecting the validity of any subsequent patent application. That opens the way in which for the idea or product to get copied. “In Australia and america 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 company owners often think their idea is too very easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, it will likely be copied and you have 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 must innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of the IP and, particularly, patent protection in order to get a great return on the investment,” she says.

Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to Inventhelp Store Products processes across multiple jurisdictions that may end in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This makes it easy to get protection in as much as 26 participating European Union member states with the submission of a 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 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 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 you will find a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking no more than patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) people in-house they need to try to get strategic business advice.”

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

The content? For the most part, Australian companies usually are 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 company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the importance of intangible assets such as brand and data use, and build rtaotl businesses around it.

In a knowledge-based economy, Inventhelp Innovation News has become a crucial business tool and governing it is not 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 per cent of the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) is not included on their own balance sheets; this indicates that investors are operating without insights in to a significant proportion in the corporate asset base.

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