Australia’s patent attorneys have come under attack for charging too much for patent filing, with claims that some attorneys charge as much as $150,000 to file patents overseas.
Dr Kiki Tanousis is a director at Melbourne-based consulting firm Interface Innovation, which specialises in helping businesses commercialise their ideas.
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Tanousis, who has worked with a number of start-ups in Australia and Britain, says some patent lawyers view patent filing as “money for jam”.
“Many Australian patent attorneys charge between $25,000 and $150,000 to file patents overseas, depending on the number of countries chosen,” Tanousis says.
“The Australian patent attorney business is a step or two behind the US, where vigorous competition has reduced costs dramatically.”
“Australian innovators are paying between 40% and 60% more for their patents than their American and European competitors. This places Australia in a very anti-competitive position.”
According to Tanousis, the drain of legal fees during the start-up phase could slow down the time required to take an innovative idea to market or completely discourage the inventor.
In the worst circumstances, it could push a small company into bankruptcy.
“With such crippling costs, many Australian inventors have been bankrupted. Other fantastic technology companies starve, flounder and fail,” Tanousis says.
Tanousis says the heart of the problem is that many local patent attorneys refer their clients to foreign patent firms, simply so that they can receive reciprocal referral business from overseas.
“Under this cosy two-way system, there is no incentive for either attorney to seek a better price for their client,” he says.
Alon Tamir, founder of StudioProper, which makes accessories for Apple devices, says he couldn’t afford a patent for his product Wallee Lock, which prevents iPads from being stolen.
“It would’ve cost us millions of dollars to get a patent, so we realised the best way to protect your market share is get out there first and do it better than everyone else,” Tamir says.
“These days, there is no real protection. Anything can be copied. The only way to safeguard your product is through service, innovation and quality.”
Tanousis encourages entrepreneurs to make use of inovia.com, a “patent powerhouse” founded by Sydney-based patent attorney Justin Simpson 10 years ago.
inovia.com is an online patent technology that allows Australian entrepreneurs to file patents overseas at around half the cost they are currently charged.
According to Tanousis, inovia.com is the largest filer of PCT patents in the US and the world’s third largest.