Is Tasmania under-represented in patent and trade mark filing statistics?
The Australian Government’s Australian Intellectual Property Report 2014 suggests that Tasmanians filed just 22 patent applications in 2013. To put it another way, Tasmanians filed just 43 patent applications per million people. Compare this to Victorians, who filed 134 patent applications per million people. The figures are similar for filing trade marks. Tasmanians filed just 714 per million people, compared to 2021 per million Victorians.
Are Tasmanians missing out on profits?
Underinvesting in intellectual property rights means that Tasmanians may be losing sales, or missing out on revenue streams arising from licensing the intellectual property (IP) rights. Worse, they may be lowering their pricing in the face of unnecessary competition, or even counterfeiting.
The owner of a patent (or a registered design) has the right to stop others making, using, selling or importing the products or processes covered by the patent. This means IP owners can limit competition and charge a premium for their products.
But patent and design rights can also be licensed. For example, while a patent owner may continue to sell their product (at a premium) in their own industry, they can also collect royalties by licensing someone else to produce versions of the product that suit a different industry.
The owner of a trade mark can stop competitors from using deceptively similar trade marks to draw away customers. Registering your trade mark simplifies action against these competitors.
Like patents, trade mark registrations can also be licensed. Imagine you’ve been running ‘Lexus Pool Maintenance’ for several years and have built a great reputation. Allowing another company to call themselves ‘Lexus Pool Chemicals’ means you could charge royalties.
Other less tangible benefits include marketing advantages. Many see the term ‘patented’ as a benefit in the marketplace. It may also help to promote an innovative business culture, as employees are often proud to be listed as an inventor on their employer’s patent.
So what’s holding you back?
We suspect that Tasmanian’s under-representation in the statistics is due partly to Tasmania’s particular industrial and commercial environment, and partly to some false assumptions about the IP system. Many business people incorrectly believe that others are not allowed to copy their products, or that their products would not qualify for patent protection, or that IP protection costs more than it does.
That’s not to say that all products should be patented or all trade marks registered. Both actions require an investment. So deciding whether to proceed should involve a comparison of the likely costs and benefits.
So what’s the next step?
We suggest simply being alert to the issues. When you develop a new brand, take a moment to think, ‘am I allowed to use this trade mark?’ Is it worth being able to easily stop others using a similar trade mark? When you develop a new product or process, keep it secret until you have at least considered patent or design protection.
If you decide that these, or any other IP-related, questions warrant further consideration, make contact with an experienced patent or trade mark attorney. Most professionals do not charge for a brief initial telephone discussion and this will help you to weigh up the costs and benefits of proceeding further.
Ben Mott is a Principal at wadesonIP.com.au. He’s also a patent attorney and mechanical engineer.
We at Business Tasmania would like to thank Ben for his contribution