Tag Archives: intellectual property

Protecting innovation with intellectual property rights

Innovation is the new black.  Governments and industry alike are talking about the importance of it and trying to stimulate it.  While in an increasingly competitive marketplace innovation is key to a business’ ability to develop and maintain an advantage, an innovation is only as good as your ability to exploit it.  And I mean ‘exploit’ in the positive connotation of the word, to make full use of, and derive benefit from, an innovation.  For intellectual property to be an effective commercial tool it needs to be effectively identified and managed. You need to know what you have that is worth protecting and why it needs to be protected.

There are a variety of intellectual property rights available to protect innovations, including patents, trade marks, industrial designs, copyright and plant breeders’ rights.  (In some cases trade secrets may also be applicable, however, these have associated risks.)  Typically of most importance are patents, trade marks and industrial designs.  Trade marks provide legal protection for signs distinguishing the goods and services of one provider or manufacturer from those of another.  Industrial designs protect the visual appearance of a product.  The intellectual property right that underlies the functionality of an innovation (whether a new product, a process for making something or a method for doing something) is patent protection.  

If a new innovation is to make it to market and be able to be exploited, some form of exclusivity is typically required to turn a good idea and a potentially useful innovation into a commercially viable product, process or method.  Thus, intellectual property protection is an important consideration in product development and for gaining a competitive edge in a fast moving marketplace.  But it is not only of relevance to entrepreneurs, but also to researchers with no intention to commercialise research themselves.  Without the initial protection of a patent or patent application there is typically little or no incentive for a prospective investor, licensee or assignee to commit the time and money required to translate the results of important research into a viable product, process or method.  Moreover, protecting intellectual property signals to investors a willingness and a commitment to seeing research translated into meaningful commercial (including clinical) outcomes and can provide a source of funding to pursue future research.

From a practical perspective, it is never too late to implement intellectual property strategies, and to focus not just on innovating but also on creating, protecting and exploiting intellectual property rights to ensure the full potential of your innovations can be realised.

Over the coming months we will be exploring a number of intellectual property issues of relevance to researchers and to business.

– Dr Gavin Recchia

Dr Gavin Recchia is a patent attorney and Principal of Davies Collison Cave.  Find out more about building better relationships between innovative research and industry here.

Sowing the seeds of technology transfer

Originally I trained as a chemist, but recently I’ve been thinking about the commercialisation of research outcomes – our area of expertise at gemaker – in botanical terms. At the risk of sounding like hippie Neil from ‘The Young Ones’, I’ll explain by asking you to consider the timeless wonder of a seed…

The seed represents a new idea, resulting from years of work by researchers in a university or similar institution. Given the right conditions, the seed will grow into an entirely new variety of plant. The innovative ideas of researchers have the potential to improve our lives in myriad ways, so the metaphorical plant could be a new source of food or medicine, or it might produce an exquisite perfume, or superior wood.

Having created a seed with wonderful potential the researcher needs someone like a farmer, to sow the seed and grow it, producing a bumper harvest. In other words, the researcher needs an industry client.

Like a farmer, the industry client has customers to please, and if customers want crisper apples, the farmer won’t waste time and money cultivating redder roses. The wisest researchers engage with industry clients to learn about market problems and demands before commencing R&D, then create seeds to meet needs.

To reach the targeted market, innovations need funding like plants need water – and more than just a drip feed. Without adequate funding for pest control (IP protection), viable mutations (prototyping), taste testing (beta testing) the researcher’s seed will never grow to fruition. It may look like a plant that’s been sitting at the supermarket for weeks losing value as it dries up and dies.

How do customers like them apples?

With funding, innovators can prove their concept: how do customers like them apples? Beta testing delivers feedback to guide product or service refinements before market entry, as well as creating an opportunity to acquire valuable early-adopter testimonials for marketing purposes.

To grow tall, new products and services need the sunlight of strategic marketing to shine on them. In the energising glow of a strong campaign, online and in traditional media, the innovation will thrive. With effective marketing, yields are maximised; without it, even the greatest innovations shrivel and die.

We do our best to help innovators achieve their optimal commercial outcome, whether this is a spin-off from a research organisation, growing sales of the product or service, licensing agreements, or sale of a business. Like anything worthwhile, the commercialisation process takes time. Few innovators achieve ‘overnight’ success, but it’s possible: you can produce strawberries in just two months. If you plant an apple tree, it takes six to ten years to bear fruit.

Like farming, commercialisation is challenging, and we all depend on it being done well. Better research-industry engagement, enhanced professionalism in technology transfer, supportive government policies and improved funding strategies will all help to turn more of our researchers’ discoveries into new Australian industries, achieving a better future for us all. To quote the wisdom of Neil: ‘This self-sufficiency thing really is amazing.’

How does gemaker help?

Gemaker helps researchers to:

• Match their research to commercial applications
• Find industry partners
• Source consistent commercialisation funding
• Identify how to best protect their intellectual property, and
• Sell their wonderful seeds so they can grow to fruition for everyone’s benefit

We keep an eye on the sky (we study global market trends and government policy changes), searching for rainclouds (grants and other sources of funding) that could hydrate seedlings (spin offs and startups). If necessary, we’ll dig an irrigation channel and perform a rain-dance (to attract angel investors or venture capitalists).

– Natalie Chapman

Global collaboration and emerging trends

Featured image above: global collaboration. Credit Eric Fischer, Flickr

Robin, having been in this space for several years, can you tell us what is different about university-industry collaboration now, compared with 5 or 10 years ago? Have you noticed any trends emerging that we might see driving partnerships in the future?

We’ve been in the space for around four years, and in this short period of time we’ve seen a shift towards greater openness between universities and industry. Local governments, especially in countries where the knowledge-economy is becoming more important as manufacturing starts to wind down, have in part aided this change. Education throughout the industry community through shared membership bodies has also been key to improving relationships.

There’s a highly cited statistic from the UK government commissioned Dowling Review, that only 2% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would think to consult their local university if they came upon a technological challenge. This is something that needs to change. It’s crucial that governments continue to engage in improving university-industry collaboration, bringing down financial barriers which hinder interactions for smaller companies. Grants for joint projects help do this, and private grant-writing companies within the space also play a role for companies wanting to access money but unsure how to go about it.

In the UK the Impact Agenda, which formed part of the government’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) for 2014, was party to much scepticism. Universities were required to submit case studies regarding the Impact of their research on industry, governmental policy and direct public impact. The level of funding for universities was affected by the impact of these case studies which were each given a score. It meant quite a culture shift took place in UK universities, especially for academics whose funding is now directly linked to external engagement (at least partially).

IP and ownership concerns are considered by many in Australia as one of the most difficult barriers to university-industry collaboration. How can organisations do better at addressing IP?

It’s good timing for this question, as recently our Head of Growth, Owen Nicholson, was part of the group developing the UK government’s Lambert Toolkit. It was launched last week and comprises a set of contracts for use by university and industry undergoing partnership discussions. The Lambert Toolkit contracts are not set in stone, but provide a great starting place and will certainly speed up that initial discussion when it comes to IP rights. I could see these types of blueprints being used globally. Owen’s insights on the Lambert Toolkit can be found here.

The valuation of early-stage research is, to my mind, an incredibly difficult process. In some sense, this does give a potential industry partner a better stake in negotiations, but they take on larger amounts of risk in doing so. With all things contractual, it’s about negotiation and making sure both parties are comfortable with the arrangement.

Can you share with us any insights into other major global collaboration barriers?

We’re currently working on removing some other barriers, one of which is how companies access worldwide university expertise easily. Currently all I can say is ‘watch this space’, but lest to say we’re looking to further our vision of helping unlock university knowledge.

In your opinion, is there scope for better university-industry partnerships between Australia and the UK?

In our experience there should be no barriers to global collaboration and partnership, however some universities in certain locations have evolved research specialisms in line with their economy, providing cutting-edge developments within particular areas (e.g. renewable energy technology in coastal areas, or agricultural developments in areas surrounded by farmland).

Australia has a great diversity of research, developed by world-leading scientists, and our excitement at working with universities in the country is causative of our audience. Our industry users are forever keen for us to widen our breadth of technology and research available in new territories they’ve previously had little access to. For many in Europe and the U.S., especially SMEs, Australia represents such a territory.

To hear more from Dr Robin Knight about the blueprints to a global collaboration boom, click here.


Dr Robin Knight is Co-founder and Director of UK-based university-industry collaboration platform IN-PART.

Click here to find out more about global collaboration opportunities with IN-PART. To find more industry-ready technology from Australian universities, visit Source IP.

IP at the root of Australia’s wheat industry

Intellectual property has had a large role to play in moving wheat breeding from being almost entirely publicly funded in the 1990s to being completely funded by the private sector today.

Wheat accounts for more than a quarter of the total value of all crops produced in Australia. In terms of all agricultural commodities produced nationwide, wheat is second only to cattle. In the 2015/16 season, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences forecasted the gross value of wheat to be $7.45 billion, with exports worth $5.8 billion.

Western Australia leads the way in wheat exports, generating half of Australia’s total annual wheat production and sending more than 95 per cent offshore. A major export avenue for Western Australian growers is the wheat used for the production of noodles. One million tonnes of Udon noodle grain is exported to Japan and Korea every year at a value of $350 million.

The Australian wheat industry has gone through significant transformation in the last 20 years and the Australian IP Report 2015 shows innovation in wheat breeding is quite healthy. Over the past decade, Triticum (the scientific genus for wheat) has had the third highest number of plant breeder’s rights (PBR) applications submitted in Australia, behind only Rosa (roses) and Prunus (trees and shrubs).

The Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994 (PBR Act) allows an owner of a plant variety the ability to not only sell their variety, but also to collect royalties at any point in its use. This provision led to the introduction of end point royalties (EPR) in the years following the PBR Act’s ratification. For wheat growing, this is a royalty paid on the total grain harvested by the growers of a PBR protected variety.

Kerrie Gleeson of Australian Grains Technologies explains how EPR have invigorated the wheat industry saying, “Prior to the year 2000, 95 per cent of wheat breeding programs were in the public sector, either funded by universities, Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) levies, or state governments.”

Moving ahead to the present day, Australian wheat breeding is now completely funded by the private sector due to the income generated by EPR.

Before EPR, royalties were paid to breeders when they sold their seed to farmers. Tress Walmsley, CEO of InterGrain, estimates that while a new variety of grain costs around $3 million to breed, under the old seed-based royalty system breeders only received around $50 000 per variety. This was a commercially unsustainable system and saw a decline in public investment for developing new varieties.

The EPR system radically changed the commercial value of developing new grain varieties in Australia. By deferring collection of royalties to the time of harvest, the initial cost of purchasing seed is lower.

An example of the EPR system in action is ‘Drysdale’, a wheat variety developed by CSIRO to cope with Australia’s low rainfall. Currently a royalty of $1 is charged to famers for every tonne produced. While this may not seem like much, considering the production of wheat averages around 25 million tonnes per year, the return from EPR really adds up.

Income received from EPR helps support the continuing research into developing new varieties and reduces the reliance on public funding.

The advantage of the EPR system is that plant breeders share the risk with farmers. If a harvest is low, for example during a drought, the farmers will be affected, and as a result the returns to the breeders through the EPR will be down. This gives breeders an incentive to develop varieties that are resilient and high yielding; the more successful the crop is, the bigger the return for both breeders and growers.


Wheat breeding in Australia is now a highly competitive industry. The major wheat breeding companies now have access to new technologies and resources through foreign investment and partnerships.

The EPR system in Australia has been dominated by wheat. The first EPR variety was released in 1996. Over 260 EPR varieties are listed for the 2015/16 harvesting season. Of these varieties, over 130 are wheat.

However, implementing the EPR system has seen its share of challenges. “When we first launched back in 1996…we actually had almost two competing systems”, Tress says. “We had one system commence in Western Australia which I was responsible for, and then we also had a company start an end point royalty system on the east coast.”

“Initially each plant breeding company, each state government and each seed company worked independently. We really made the big gains when we came together and worked it out collectively”, she says.

The development of an EPR industry collection system began in 2007 when a number of Australia’s major plant breeding organisations formed the EPR Steering Committee.

“The key component is working with the grain growers and listening to their feedback and making changes to how we collect the EPR so it is actually an easier system for them to utilise”, says Tress. “The industry standard license was one of our first achievements.”

The EPR is ultimately reliant on the honesty of farmers declaring the varieties they are growing. “Our system works in finding ways where the PBR Act gives you the level of protection you need, and you dovetail in contract law where you need some extra assistance”, adds Tress.

The integrity of EPR collection is maintained in various ways, including harvest declaration forms and reports from grain traders and bulk handlers. An industry standard contract has also been developed to simplify the collection process. The competitive nature of the EPR system means farmers are given a choice when deciding on which grain to grow. If they are paying a royalty on seed they are growing, they want to be confident the crop is high yielding, disease resistant and suitable for their region.

Even though research and development into wheat has been growing in recent years, the industry faces ongoing challenges. While Australia has so far avoided the notoriously devastating Ug99, a fungal wheat stem rust which can cause entire crops to be lost, farmers do tackle other varieties of stripe, stem and leaf rusts across the country. Nationwide, 72 per cent of Australia’s wheat growing area is susceptible to at least one rust pathogen.

This highlights the importance of continued investment into the development of new wheat breeds.

“We need the research to create high-yielding, disease and pest resistant agricultural crops,” Professor Philip Pardey says, who was a keynote speaker at the 2015 International Wheat Conference held in Sydney.

The International Year of Pulses aims to raise awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production. The celebration is an opportunity to encourage connections throughout the food chain – and one Australian team of researchers is ahead of the game.

Murdoch University professor John Howieson is now working on a new licence structure for the upcoming release of lebeckia. This grain, originally from South Africa, is considered the ‘holy grail’ breakthrough to rectify the shortage of summertime feed for livestock.

The new National Innovation and Science Agenda will support further agricultural research both with research funds and through programs that bring together universities, researchers and producers. You can find out more at innovation.gov.au.

This article was originally published by IP Australia in IP – Your Business Edge Issue 1 2016. Read the original article here.

Facing the future

As the world becomes more urbanised, with 70% of people now living in cities, “there is an urgent need to make them more sustainable, more energy efficient, safer and cleaner,” says Dr Marlene Kanga, iOmniscient’s director. “Our products enable this to be done intelligently using video data from different sources to complement text and numerical data.”

The company’s technology can analyse images from anywhere – TV, YouTube, security cameras and personal and public sources – and from that provide real-time responses in complex and crowded environments. The technology can be employed wherever there are cameras.

It pinpoints faces in a crowd, counts people, manages crowds, detects abandoned objects, recognises license plates, and matches drivers to their vehicles. The technology works in more than 120 languages, including Arabic scripts and numerals and can operate indoors or outdoors, even in the harshest climates. It also accepts inputs from audio and chemical sensors.

The system has already been installed in oil and gas plants from Azerbaijan to Mexico, in airports, on railway systems including China’s High Speed Rail network, on campuses such as the University of San Francisco, and in Iraq’s Karbala mosque. As Rustom Kanga, CEO of iOmniscient puts it: “We can do everything that any video analysis supplier can do and do it better – and many things that no one else can do.”

Using mobile devices, iOmniscient’s software can also “monitor garbage and vandalism, understand traffic congestion, assess riots and commotions and provide inputs for big data systems analysing information relevant to a city,’’ adds Kanga. “The technology has its own ‘smarts’, with the ability to minimise nuisance alarms, diagnose itself, and determine whether all cameras are working effectively.”

Dr Marlene Kanga
Dr Marlene Kanga

The starting point for this remarkable technology was a single patent acquired in 2001 from the CRC for Sensor Signal and Information Processing. Founders Marlene and Rustom Kanga and Ivy Li then invested extensively in the company to expand its scope and product range. Today, it has 26 patents covering multiple technologies. Sales are mainly made through major systems integrators such as Siemens and Motorola. They also partner with other major technology providers like Microsoft, EMC and Oracle.

The company is working on improving its technology through four engineering centres in Sydney, Toronto, Chennai and Singapore, where they continue to develop robust in-house technology, train postgraduates, and maintain a strong lead in the ownership of its intellectual property.


Name: iOmniscient

HQ: Sydney

R&D: 26 patents covering multiple technologies

Reach: Azerbaijan, Canada, China, India, Iraq, Mexico, USA, Singapore

At a glance: Established in 2001, iOmniscient is one of Australia’s great software export success stories. 95% of sales are overseas and it has offices in Canada, Singapore, India and more.

– Paul Hendy