Five steps every Australian exporter should take to protect their Intellectual Property
For Australian businesses, exporting presents an attractive opportunity for growth, providing access to new and potentially bigger or more lucrative markets around the world. But some small businesses are reluctant to expose their business to the global market, fearing that their products and designs will be copied, reducing their ability to compete against local players.
While a new business may protect its IP in Australia as a matter of course, this can provide little protection beyond Australian borders. Although international protocols mean it may be possible to protect and enforce IP rights with trading partners, unless small businesses protect their IP in each market they enter, they may leave themselves open to IP theft.
Small businesses may be tempted to try to protect every element of their IP in every possible market, but this isn’t practical for most businesses. Aside from the cost of filing registrations in multiple countries, IP rights will also need to be asserted and maintained – which can lead to significant legal, administrative and translation costs.
The most cost efficient approach to protecting IP for small businesses is to develop a considered IP strategy, which maximises protection while minimising costs. Small businesses can do so in five simple steps.
Consider your export strategy
Small businesses should ask themselves which markets offer the best potential for their products and services. The answers may depend on the macro factors like population and national wealth, or finding the right cultural fit could be more important for some businesses. Hegs pegs inventor Scott Boocock says a combination of factors helped him decide which 44 countries to export to.
“Our strategy for export was to choose countries with over 20 million people, and which had a level of GDP where people would go to the supermarket and actually spend money to buy Hegs pegs.”
“We choose countries that are already selling, buying and using pegs, but they have a minimum of 20 million people just so we can ship the right volumes over. We didn’t want to send boxes or pallets, we wanted to send shipping containers to them.”
Once you’ve identified which countries you’re interested in exporting to, look into the IP arrangements that apply in the jurisdiction.
Do your research
While protecting your own IP is a first priority for any small business, you also need to ensure that by exporting to a new country, you aren’t breaching someone else’s IP. Your product or brand may be unique in Australia, but you’ll need to ensure you’re protected from costly legal challenges from potential competitors. IP specialists, such as IP attorneys, can provide comprehensive searches, but by doing their own research first, small businesses can shape their own export strategy and ensure no nasty surprises.
Once you file applications to protect your IP, foreign IP offices will send you an examination report if it finds deficiencies in your application or that your claimed IP rights conflict with others.
Choose your solutions
Most small businesses will need to decide which elements of their product to cover with IP protection. Examples include the design of a product, its technical features, your brand or a combination of all three.
According to Scott Boocock, small businesses should think broadly when protecting IP. “We also protected the brand, and trade marked the stylised ‘H’. I find that even more valuable than the patents, personally, because your brand is everything. People buy because of the brand; they buy it because of the products. They don’t buy because of the patents. That’s just an extra protection to prevent people from copying the Heg peg.”
Understand the costs
For small businesses, protecting IP across multiple markets can be an expensive exercise, especially if you’re protecting more than one element of your product. This is where you need to be clear where the value of your product lies. If it’s inherent in the IP, then you need to take appropriate steps to protect it in the markets you care about most.
Monique File, co-owner of b.box baby goods, says that deciding where to protect your IP comes down to a commercial decision. For b.box, even though they invest a lot in IP protection, commercially it didn’t make sense for them to register trade marks in every market. “For a new business starting out with limited funds, it becomes a question of ‘what do you invest in – protecting your IP or developing your products.
“I think if we started again, we would probably have protected more upfront or potentially gone straight to China to register there. If we did that, we may still be in the same position as we are today, but we may have gotten there sooner.”
Enlist expert help
The final piece of the IP puzzle for small businesses is to seek expert help. Finding the right IP strategy can be complex, and no matter how much research you do, it’s likely that you will still benefit from professional IP advice.
Professionals who specialise in international IP protection can offer solutions that you haven’t yet considers and can also give you access to the benefit of their experience. As such, it’s recommended that small businesses consult the professionals to help ensure their strategy offers the protection they need, and sets their business up for export success.
By Andrew Watson, Executive Director, Export Finance, Efic
Seo JungJin: Who is EY’s World Entrepreneur of 2021?
Seo JungJin, founder of biopharma firm Celltrion, which most recently developed an antibody treatment for COVID-19, has been named the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2021, becoming the first South Korean in the award’s 21-year history.
Regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year celebrates visionary and innovative leaders from across 60 countries who are transforming the world and fostering growth.
JungJin, who is now honoroary chairman of Celltrion Group, was up against a worthy cast of entrepreneurial competitors, taking the crown from among 45 award winners across 38 countries and territories.
Speaking during the virtual event, JungJin described his own interpretation of entrepreneurship as something that brings together “a group of people toward a common vision, embracing challenges as opportunities and committing oneself to contribute to the greater good”.
Why was JungJin crowned King Entrepreneur?
A South Korean native and now 63 years of age, JungJin founded biopharmaceutical firm Celltrion in 2003. In the nearly two decades since its founding, Celltrion has lived up to its goal of advancing health and welfare for all by developing ground-breaking drugs to treat autoimmune disease, various forms of cancer and, most recently, COVID-19.
The company, which JungJin started with just US$45,000 and five of his colleagues, has since growth to more than 2,1000 employees with sales permits in more than 90 countries and revenues exceeding US$1.69bn.
According to the panel, JungJin’s story is a shining example of the power of an unstoppable entrepreneur to change the world with the pandel moved by both his incredible story and his purpose-driven leadership, innovative mindset and entrepreneurial spirit.
Described by the chair of the EY judging panel Rosaleen Blair as “representing everything an unstoppable should be” from taking on the world’s biggest health care challenges to consistently creating long-term value for his company, JungJin’s story is one of incredible tenacity and perseverance that the judging panel felt most represented the entrepreneurial spirit.
“He’s taken breathtaking risks, both personal and professional, to found Celltrion and grow it into one of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies,” says Stasia Mitchell, EY Global Entrepreneurship Leader. “His passion for creating affordable, life-saving health care and flair for tackling global problems has led to many treatments that have helped millions of people worldwide and was especially evident this past year through the creation of a COVID-19 antibody treatment.”
How did JungJin get there?
JungJin's entrepreneurial journey started at an early age when he worked as a taxi driver to get himself through Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. After studying industrial engineering, he rose through the ranks of Daewoo Motor Co. before losing his job amid the carmaker’s financial troubles following the 1997 Asian economic crisis.
Following this, JungJin started collaborating with colleagues to explore business opportunities in different industries, though none delivered lasting success. The turning point came after he attended a talk hosted by renowned scholars, which inspired him to focus on the biopharmaceutical sector.
And so he founded Celltrion with just US$45,000 of his savings. The launch of Remsima, credited with being the world's first antibody biosimilar, quickly moved Celltrion up the ranks of the country's fairly underdeveloped pharmaceutical sector. Celltrion followed this success with the launch of drugs for breast cancer and lymphoma that today are being used worldwide.
With ambitions to be the world’s first in different areas, Celltrion has pioneered numerous uncharted areas to great success over the past two decades, most recently responding to the global pandemic by successfully developing an antibody treatment for COVID-19 and working to ensure a timely supply of the safe and effective treatment.
“When I first started, my vision was to help patients gain access to safe, effective and affordable medicines and thereby enhance the quality of people’s lives,” explains JungJin. “The success of Celltrion has enabled me to expand on this while finding new ways to fuel my entrepreneurial drive.”