Almost 70% of businesses with zero to four staff use no intellectual property protection methods, according to an alarming Australian Bureau of Statistics report.
According to the ABS, 67.1% of businesses with zero to four employees use no forms of protection when it comes to IP.
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Slightly larger businesses aren’t much better. More than 60% of businesses employing between five and 19 employees use no IP protection methods.
According to the ABS, businesses in the construction industry are the least likely to protect their IP – a whopping 78.6% use no methods of IP protection.
Meanwhile, 74.6% of businesses in the transport, postal and warehousing sector use no IP protection methods, along with 74.4% of businesses in accommodation and food services.
According to an IP Australia spokesperson, the figures are concerning.
“One of the biggest problems is when they get their business name registered and they think they own the right to publicly trade under that,” he says.
“But that’s just a formality for governments to identify who that business is. It doesn’t have the same legal status as a registered trademark.”
“Most businesses think they don’t generate IP but they actually do.”
The spokesperson says he’s not surprised construction businesses are the least likely to protect themselves with regard to IP, despite the fact they are among the most likely to need it.
“Tradesmen are always inventing things that solve little things. Unless they protect their IP, they’re not going to benefit from that,” he says.
“A classic example is [appliances retailer] Kambrook – the guy developed a multiple power adaptor board. He invented that and didn’t patent it.”
“He lost millions of dollars of potential income. Other companies copied it because he didn’t realise the IP had value.”
Bruce Grey, managing director of Advance Manufacturing CRC, works in collaboration with the Federal Government to educate companies on how to avoid the same experience.
With Swinburne University, Advanced Manufacturing CRC has created the Innovativity program, designed to help SMEs protect and enhance value in innovation.
The program teaches companies that every person involved with a project must understand the importance and process of IP protection.
This involves IP landscaping, patent research and writing.
The patent application process involves extensive research into what other applications are already in existence and in development.