World Intellectual Property Day

World Intellectual Property Day

Today is World Intellectual Property (IP) Day!

World IP Day is celebrated every year on the 26th of April. It recognises the important role intellectual property rights play in innovation and creativity today.

The mechanisms utilised to protect intellectual property (such as patents, trade marks and copyright) have allowed and fostered incredible innovations. There is now a billboard in Peru that harvests water from the air and supplies the local community with clean drinking water. There is a 3D-printer at an American university that regenerates damaged human tissue. There are now even batteries in China that charge mobile phones in minutes. Without the mechanisms available to protect intellectual property and foster creativity and innovation, these inventions would likely not exist today.

In addition to celebrating innovation, World IP Day is also a good excuse to reflect upon how the proper protection of intellectual property should be a key agenda item and strategy for all businesses in the current corporate environment.

The below table provides a comparison of the world’s most valuable brands today with the most valuable brands 30 years ago.

Most valuable five brands in 1986: Most valuable five brands in 2016:
1.  General Motors Apple
2.  Exxon Mobile Google
3.  Mobil Microsoft
4.  Ford Motor Coca Cola
5.  International Business Machines Facebook


Savvy readers will note, the top five companies have shifted from mostly energy or motor vehicle companies to technology companies.

Given today’s top companies were mostly created and rely on intellectual property, one could say they would not have been as successful without adequate and effective intellectual property protection.

Patent protection, in particular, is one of the most effective mechanisms these top companies utilise to protect their technology.

One of the most famous examples of the effectiveness of patent protection is the invention of WiFi. Today, WiFi is used by millions of businesses and consumers every day. It was invented through the efforts of our very own CSIRO and subsequently patented in 1996.

Although there were a number of competing technologies that existed at the time, WiFi was unique in that its hardware enabled a signal to be transmitted with reduced echo, which preserved signal strength.

CSIRO attempted to convince information technology companies to acquire licenses to use the patented WiFi technology. However, this was initially unsuccessful, with many manufacturers using the design without license.

Ultimately, after a number of lengthy legal battles with some of the worlds most powerful information technology companies, CSIRO successfully secured license agreements with almost 90 percent of the industry. This resulted in an estimated $430 million in revenue from WiFi licence rights as of 2012.

This success would not have been possible if CSIRO did not properly protect the technology in 1996.

Similarly, the success of all of the top five most valuable brands would not have been possible without trade mark protection. The president of Coca Cola often remarks that even if Coca Cola Inc. lost all of its buildings, vehicles, factories and equipment, the company would be able to rebuild itself as long as the trade mark survived. The Coca Cola brand is now estimated to be valued at around $US80 billion.

As these examples show, whether it be through trade marks, patents or copyright protection, properly protecting your IP is vital to the success of your business. Your IP strategy should not only be an important aspect of your broader business plan, it should be a regular agenda item.

With World IP Day being today, consider whether you have an intellectual property strategy and whether your IP is properly protected. In today’s commercial environment, your intellectual property and brands are likely to be your most valuable assets. As Coca Cola and the CSIRO would agree, they are very much worth protecting.


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