Dark arts: How to cope with Australian and global IP laws

EVEN with new intellectual property (IP) initiatives by the Australian Government designed to make the process easier, it is still a difficult area for most business leaders to navigate.

Yet it is becoming increasingly vital to get IP protections right, according to Andrew Dark of Dark IP.

“In the IP industry, particularly patents, we are constantly faced with the challenges of dealing with governments that sway from thinking IP monopolies are good things to IP being the destroyer of all innovation,” Mr Dark said. 

“Of course, we know that IP is essential for fostering investment and innovation as it is rare that people want to spend thousands, or even millions of dollars developing an invention just to see others profit from that investment.”

He said the major problem was that IP law seemed to be in a process of constant change, making long-term rights a challenge.

“The law on IP is in constant flux, in many instances as a result of the perception of the government,” Mr Dark said.

“This is true not only in Australia, but across the globe. So, it’s not only a question of understanding cutting edge technologies in a variety of industries, it’s also essential to know the ins and outs of the laws in the major jurisdictions.”

In Australia, the IP legal profession is going through huge changes. Several of the nation’s major players are listing on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and smaller players are being absorbed.

So while the challenges are major, Mr Dark believes the personal approach of his boutique IP agency is able to stand out from the crowd.

“It’s a challenging prospect, both professionally and personally, but I am looking forward to what the future offers this independent, boutique IP company,” Mr Dark said.

Dark IP was created in January 2012, at the conclusion of Andrew Dark’s 21 years of working for a variety of organisations across the Australian IP industry.

He specialises in the fields of chemistry, material science, nanotechnology, mining and energy, mineral analysis and building systems. Mr Dark is a registered patent and trade mark attorney in Australia and New Zealand, a fellow of the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia and a Certified Materials Professional recognised by the Institute of Materials Engineering of Australasia.

Mr Dark is also a committee member of the Asian Patent Practice Committee of the Intellectual Property Owners Association, IPO, in the US, which provides recommendations and input into the development of patent law and practice in the Asia region. He is also the founder of the Australian Patents Forum on LinkedIn and a Director of the Australian Nanotechnology Alliance.

“I had worked as an examiner of patents, earned my stripes for a decade at one of the ‘big’ firms and had been a partner at a mid-sized firm,” Mr Dark said.

“Looking back, it was still a gutsy move to start a business while still under a non-compete agreement, with no clients and two young children in tow.

“I won’t say that it’s been all smooth sailing. I started the business with a co-director and the transition to sole directorship was tough.

“And now, here we are some six years later ready to move into a new growth phase.”

Dark IP is an Executive Leaders member of Queensland Leaders.



Taking insurance in toughening times? Be choosy says Gallagher

MOST business leaders agree that the insurance markets are ‘hardening’ – but how to handle this to best business effect is as challenge.

One experienced insurance advisor is suggesting business leaders do what he is doing: take a lead from how insurance brokers are handling the situation themselves.

Gallagher Queensland’s Chris McKeown, a respected corporate advisor with more than 20 years experience in the insurance industry, said in general most types of insurance are likely to be harder to place for brokers, the deals will be less advantageous and cover will cost more. 

“That’s where a low claims record, sound risk mitigation strategy and good advice can achieve savings,” Mr McKeown said.

“Everyone is talking about a hardening insurance market but what does that mean for insurance brokers and their clients?”

Mr McKeown said after a year of catastrophic weather events in 2017 global disaster insurance losses were estimated by global reinsurer, Swiss Re, to be in the region of US$306 billion.

“In an environment where reinsurers and insurers alike are very much international players this matters because capacity is reduced,” he said.

“Locally we are seeing a governmental crackdown on financial institutions, corporate governance is being made more accountable, insolvencies are on the rise, flammable cladding has increased risk in construction and Australia is one of the most litigious countries in the world when it comes to liability suits.

“That’s without touching on the cyber-crime wave of attacks on businesses that experts such as digital security specialists McAfee are predicting.”

Mr McKeown – who has advised start-up organisations through to multinational companies – said an insurance broker who understands how a business operates and the conditions it operates under, and who takes the time to run analytics on its risk profile, “can make better informed suggestions about managing these risks and is a key asset in these kinds of market conditions”.

According to Mr McKeown, another major consideration should be achieving integrated cover without gaps or loopholes that can occur when shopping for insurance on a piecemeal, separate policy basis.

“A tailored solution packaged into a single program ensures your business is comprehensively covered and offers its owner greater control with a preferred insurer,” he said.

“Insurance is one area where the cheapest option isn’t necessarily the best deal. Shopping around for a broker with experience in your industry and insight into your professional needs will pay off when you need to claim.”

Gallagher began trading in Australia in 1985 and is wholly owned by Arthur J. Gallagher and Co, a family-owned US brokerage founded in 1927. In Australia and New Zealand, Gallagher employs more than 2500 staff in over 60 locations.

Gallagher is an Industry Expert member of Queensland Leaders.



Modular displays show the way in brand style

EXHIBITIONS continue to be a vital element of a company’s marketing strategy – by providing the platform to showcase products and services directly to target audiences – but there is more to success than simply meets the eye.

Outstanding Displays director Tom Meredith said while exhibitions provided an ideal opportunity for salespeople to engage with prospective customers and keep abreast of competitor offerings and innovations in their industry, “too often companies fall short in exhibition environments due to lack of preparation”. 

“Companies participating at exhibitions need to navigate between custom-built fabricated stands and modular ‘system’ stands,” Mr Meredith said. “The person tasked with organising the display typically needs to search for a solution which is affordable, yet represents their brand well, while looking appealing enough to attract delegates. 

“Not an easy thing to search for, but an evolution in modular exhibition systems has brought on a host of display options that combine the best of both worlds.”

Mr Meredith said modular displays provided adaptability to different exhibition business environments.

“The main advantage is their ability to grow and shrink according to an exhibitor's needs,” Mr Meredith said. “Like building blocks, pieces of each system integrate perfectly when added to or rearranged, making them particularly appealing when re-building at multiple events where the stand floor space varies.  In terms of adaptability, today's modular stands can't be beat.

“Customisability of modular displays are luring fans of custom-built stands with ever-growing opportunities to integrate large scale fabric graphics – and the ability to add, relocate, or remove elements such as audio-visual components, storage rooms, and even double decks,” Mr Meredith said.

“Starting with a basic structure, exhibitors have a myriad of options to scale up or down depending on space or budgetary constraints.”

Mr Meredith pointed out that modular display components were designed to be much lighter and more compact than their custom-built cousins. 

“To illustrate this point further, one of my clients recently upgraded from a custom-built timber stand to a modular display, reducing their transport costs by more than 50 percent – from two semi-trailers to one,” he said. 

“Apply this saving over multiple builds, combined with zero refurbishment costs, and you start to appreciate the benefits of a modular display.

Mr Meredith’s experience was that “style is everything when it comes to creating an identity on the exhibition floor”. He said modular displays were at the forefront, offering an extensive range of architectural details and customisable features. 

“This provides companies the ability to further personalise their stand, resulting in a display that looks custom, often at a fraction of the cost, weight, and setup time required of a traditional custom build.”

Outstanding Displays, founded by Mr Meredith and David Coulthard, works with clients throughout Australia and beyond, specialising in designing modular displays with impact.

Outstanding Displays is a 2018 Executive Leader member with Queensland Leaders.


EM Solutions personifies Australian hi-tech innovation

INNOVATION in action is what high-technology communications developer EM Solutions is all about.

Every step of the way, this Queensland-based company has made the most of its innovative edge. EM Solutions has come from obscurity just a few years ago to seeing its satellite and microwave communication and products lead the world in security and defence communications.

Looking at EM Solutions’ pedigree, perhaps its innovation DNA should not come as any surprise.

Occupying the R&D seats at EM Solutions are some of the world’s most agile technical minds in the field of information and communication technology (ICT).  In the big seat is CEO and managing director seat is Rowan Gilmore, who knows a thing or two about innovation and commercialisation. 

Until June 2011 Dr Gilmore was CEO of the Australian Institute for Commercialisation, where he assisted numerous start-up companies and worked to accelerate technology transfer between research institutions and industry. Prior to this role, he worked extensively in the ICT industry, and was formerly based in London and Geneva from 1998 as vice president of Network Services (Europe) for the airline IT company SITA, now France Telecom’s Orange subsidiary.  His previous experience was with Schlumberger, Telstra, and OTC (Australia).

Dr Gilmore is an engineering graduate and winner of the university medal from the University of Queensland, and earned his Doctor of Science degree from Washington University in St Louis in the US.  He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, chairman of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Engineered Quantum Systems, and holds adjunct professorships at the University of Queensland in both the School of Business and the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering.

“We all know that innovation is the life blood of companies that wish to grow,” Dr Gilmore said.

“Innovation is fostered throughout the economy by a supportive ecosystem that encourages investment – in R&D, venture capital, and the incubation of small growth companies; by nurturing human capital, and education in the sciences and technology; by encouraging collaboration, particularly between research organisations and industry; and by applying new technologies and ideas to meet customer needs.

“An often overlooked requirement is that innovation also requires great (or even heroic) customers, who seek the rewards of innovation but still have the risk appetite to be able to fund and trial innovations that might still be ongoing.”

EM Solutions is the personification of that knowledge and philosophy. Commercial success in the US and Europe has followed – as have the business and engineering awards – and recently the company’s products have finally attracted attention at home.

For many years theEM Solutions was exporting to its overseas customers well before local companies turned to it as a supplier of, primarily, its leading-edge shipboard stabilised satellite communications terminals (pictured).

These terminals require very sophisticated software and hardware, using as many parts as a small car, with motors to compensate for the ship’s motion and powerful transmitters to reach the satellite thousands of kilometres away. 

“Innovation occurs by building on the shoulders of giants that have gone before,” Dr Gilmore said. “But the real giants in the innovation puzzle are those customers who embrace innovation and are prepared to fund its development.

“Such customers push the technology envelope and drive innovation by demanding new requirements, new features, and performance improvements. With a new government-led defence industry policy, the Australian Border Force and Royal Australian Navy are two Australian customers that have embraced local technology as part of their new suite of shipboard tools.

“While defending our shores, these customers are helping to keep the local economy innovating and growing as well.”

EM Solutions won the 2016 Lord Mayor’s Business Award for Innovation.



InterFinancial marks 30 years

LONG-STANDING Queensland Leaders Industry Expert group InterFinancial has celebrated its 30th anniversary by introducing a range of innovations.

Key among those innovations were the introduction of an online valuation tool based on InterFinancial’s three decades of Australia-wide experience, a new business growth consulting business and expansion through a new Sydney office and tapping in to international links through the company’s Clairfield International alliance.

The 30th anniversary celebration took place at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA).

On the evening, InterFinancial chairman Paul Keehan described InterFinancial entering mid-life as a “period for enterprise”. 

“A time to reflect upon our last 30 years and forge ahead with a new understanding of who we are, what we stand for, where we have come from and how we act,” Mr Keehan said. Mr Keehan  has been with InterFinancial for 20 years and in the industry for more than 30 years. Mr Keehan is now transitioning to a non-executive role with the firm

InterFinancial managing director Sharon Doyle announced at the celebration that InterFinancial was ranked number six in the Australian and New Zealand markets for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the 2016 calendar year for transactions up to $50 million. InterFinancial was ranked number 14 in M&A up to $500 million.

Ms Doyle said it was clear InterFinancial continued to lift above its weight, ranking above competitors “that have more corporate finance offices than InterFinancial had advisors”.

Ms Doyle said InterFinancial remained committed to continuous reinvention, “shaping and re-shaping our offering to deliver our clients what they actually need in order to deliver shareholder value growth”.

Ms Doyle formally announced the development of InterFinancial’s online valuation product,

“We have embedded the 30 years of experience and wisdom of Paul Keehan into a software program that accesses real time market data; applies algorithms based on hundreds of hours of referenceable valuation theory research combined with 30 years of wisdom and experience; and delivers a high-quality, indicative valuation,” Ms Doyle said.

Most significantly, the online valuation tool provides advice to InterFinancial cleints about how they can improve that valuation. 

“We are deliberately putting the power in the hands of our clients so that they can make well informed, higher-impact investment decisions within their business,” Ms Doyle said.

The focus on launching a ‘growth consulting’ business is another imminent InterFinancial innovation.

“Our clients have identified that although they often have incredibly capable senior management teams, they are built to run lean, they manage complex roles and the teams have limited ‘spare’ capacity to define and implement new strategic growth initiatives,” Ms Doyle said.

“In response, InterFinancial has established our Growth Consulting division with specialist skills, and flexible capacity that will assist our clients to define, launch and execute key value-building initiatives.

“We have recruited a team of incredibly experienced consultants who engage on specific, targeted projects including growth strategy development and project management;

buyside advisory services including investment case development, integration planning and synergy identification; and post-merger integration services, including a focus on synergy realisation,” Ms Doyle said.

“This is a natural and exciting extension of our core M&A and capital raising advisory work that will help our clients to achieve more in their business.”

Financial has recently established a permanent Sydney office with the recruitment of Chris Mundey, who has strong private equity and consulting experience. The group is also engaging even more actively with Clairfield International.

“This has proved an amazingly effective partnership for our clients, with over 70 percent of our transactions across the last two years involving international targets,” Ms Doyle said.

“We are securing incredible access through our partner firms and are currently active with strategic parties out of the US, Benelux and China.  This relationship has continued to strengthen and we are expecting this to continue over the next decade.”



Entrepreneurs use advisory boards as launch pads

BUSINESS confidence is underpinned by confident decisions.  Confident decisions are proven to be best made by a motivated group of people equipped with a mix of relevant skills and experience.

These fundamentals underpinned the creation of the Advisory Board Centre, founded by Louise Broekman in 2012 as a result of her positive experience in appointing an advisory board for her – then – small business. 

Ms Broekman is a firm believer in the power of well-sourced advisory boards to offer vital support to entrepreneurs at all business stages – but particularly in those cash-strapped and mission-critical early growth stages.

“Today’s business leaders are striving to find access to current ground-breaking thinking that can help their business elevate to the next level,” Ms Broekman said. “They’re demanding innovative, cutting-edge business intelligence and strategic insights from the very best minds.

“They want deep engaged partnerships based on mutual respect and committed two-way support over the long-term. Long term confidential partnerships with other entrepreneurs who are current in the market can be that ground-break they need. 

“That’s exactly why the Advisory Board Centre was founded.”


Business confidence seems to be in short supply in the current environment, Ms Broekman said, as evidenced by the decline across Australia in the number of businesses employing more than 20 staff.

“It is one indicator of businesses lack of confidence, right-sizing their businesses and reducing their risk,” Ms Broekman said. “In times of uncertainty, this is prudent.  If however, these same entrepreneurs were supported in the right way, significant value may be either unlocked or created with a high level of economic impact.”

The Advisory Board Centre is a response to meet this need at a new level, according to Ms Broekman.

“Consultants traditionally engage on a project basis,” she said. “Accountants and lawyers react to deadlines or crisis and traditional boards manage risk and governance at the big end of town.  Directors can be paralysed by the threat of personal risk when making decisions around filtered information.

“Governance boards can struggle to be relevant in changing commercial environments.  Traditionally, advisory boards have been adhoc and inconsistent.

“Real value from an advisory board comes from structure, facilitation and access to quality-committed advisors selected specifically for the priorities and needs of a business.”

The Advisory Board Centre is a network of certified chairs, approved advisors and recognised experts.  Ms Broekman said it was a community of like-minded business professionals “working together and using a common methodology to support entrepreneurs in building greater value in their business”. 

The Advisory Board Centre came out of Ms Broekman’s experiences in establishing her own advisory board for her business. That was the trigger for growing her business internationally, reaching 135 offices in eight markets. 

“The advisory board changed my business and my life,” Ms Broekman said. “Since 2012 we have developed and implemented advisory board models into businesses, achieving significant results.” 

Now the Advisory Board Centre is recruiting entrepreneurs who want to ‘give back’ to the business sector and build a board portfolio. Ms Broekman has developed a free white paper -- Are you Ready for an Advisory Board? – to inform and attract entrepreneurs on to suitable advisory boards.




Downes Group at cutting edge of AR

AUGMENTED reality (AR) is about to metamorphosise the surveying industry and Queensland Leaders 2016 executive member, Downes Group, is at the sharp end of its adoption.Downes Group is as the cutting edge of using augmented reality to make a quantum leap in surveying.

“Surveyors are spatial data experts,” Downes Group operations manager Tony Vella said.

“We work in centimetre accurate GPS, robotic and scanning environments. Innovations in emerging spatial and measurement technology are where our industry leaders are found.

“At Downes, we see that (AR) devices – headsets, tablets, and glasses – may soon allow us to access real time professional data as we move and work, bolstering quality management in field,” Mr Vella said.

Mr Vella said state governments across Australia were developing strategy for an augmented reality vision of land data management. 

“As this vison becomes real, what we as surveyors do in the field will be very different to how we work now,” he said.

“Live real time reality, enhanced by computer aided technology, is about to burst into our lives professionally and socially,” Mr Vella said. “Think Tony Stark, Iron Man, the super intelligent flying suit – that’s augmented reality.

“Interpretive sight and sound sensory tech with you live assisted by ‘spatially accurate’ GPS (global positioning systems),” Mr Vella said was Downes Group’s vision for future surveying in the future.

He said AR was not to be confused with virtual reality (VR), where reality is replaced. AR lays useful information across the top of real views.

“Augmented reality has potential across many industries including education, medical, search and rescue, sports and entertainment, marketing, tourism, mining, the list is endless,” Mr Vella said.

 “We utilise cutting edge technology now, like our 12d modelling software, our robotic and GPS/GNSS equipment, but this alone does not equal success.”

Downes Group said there were many factors beyond the technologies they have developed that drive the company’s success.

“So what else helps us succeed? Our internationally accredited Integrated Management System does,” Mr Vella said.

“Ensuring seamless quality spatial data and communication does. Good response times, continuous improvement, and our titling and consulting expertise does too. 

“Our passion for the delivery of outstanding results for our clients is essential,” Mr Vella said.

“This all allows us to work across the development industry, assist design of state roads and national infrastructure projects, spatially control construction projects, work with all levels of government, and do what we do.”


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