Home' FMCG Business : FMCG SPT 2015 Contents [R&D]
ith the New Zealand
to treble the food and
beverage sectors export
market to $58 billion
by 2025, leveraging the
value of intellectual property (IP) will be crucial in
achieving the greatest return.
Meeting those goals means working smarter, not
harder. It’s about developing innovative technology and
ideas (which Kiwis are good at), and keeping our eyes
open for future opportunities, maximising the value of
our assets long term (which Kiwis aren’t so good at).
The reality is, unless you have protective
measures in place, it is only a matter of time before
your competitors, whether based in New Zealand or
overseas, catch on to your point of difference. All of
a sudden you’re on an equal playing field, and quite
possibly at a disadvantage.
Kiwi exporters can’t compete on price, commodity
or being close to the market. But they can compete
by being innovative, and maintaining a competitive
edge in a market. This is first achieved by identifying
what that edge is, and putting intellectual property
strategies in place to leverage that edge in order to
exploit it for as long as possible.
In some cases, like highly complicated food
processing techniques, it may be possible to keep
these as trade secrets.
However, one risk is that employees who leave your
company may leak this valuable intellectual property
to a new employer, which could be a direct competitor.
Given the size of New Zealand, this is a real possibility.
There is also the risk of overseas competitors reverse
engineering your product or process, leaving you back
at a geographical disadvantage.
Something that should also be considered, but is
often overlooked, is patents to protect new concepts
relating to your products or processes. Of course
there are many other forms of formal intellectual
property protection like design registrations
to protect the look of a product, or registered
trademarks to protect branding to name a few, but
its patents that we’ll focus on here.
Essentially, patents can allow your company to
really leverage your point of difference for much
longer than can be achieved through speed to
market or maintaining trade secrets.
A great benefit of the food industry is that the path
to market is relatively short compared to other science-
based industries. You can do quick research and
development and there is no need for clinical trials.
This makes patents in the food industry particularly
valuable, because the 20-year monopoly can be put to
maximum use during commercialisation.
Compared to other areas in biotech, the food
industry is a relatively predictive art. So, if you’re
able to show the effectiveness of a new antimicrobial
agent for preserving poultry, it’s likely you could
seek valid patent protection for preserving other
meats or food products, and potentially even other
uses with very limited supportive data.
Looking beyond just protecting your turf and
competitive edge, patents can be used proactively
to build business opportunities and further growth.
Consider the following points, for example;
You may have developed a new food processing
technique and an associated device for the seafood
industry, but you realise it could work just as well
for beef. As your business is focused wholly on
seafood processing, you could patent the technique
and device and keep a monopoly in your market
of interest. Yet, in tandem, you could license
your patent rights to a beef processing company,
generating passive income.
Interest from big overseas players
International food and nutraceutical companies
are IP savvy and regularly review patent filings and
publications. For example, global food giant Nestlé
has thousands of patents, yet recently invested in
New Zealand’s own Vital Foods, due to its IP position
including its patented product, Phloe®. So, your
patent publication can act as a form of advertising,
and could lead to direct collaborative business
opportunities with large international entities.
New business model – why sell
With patents, you could even take on a new
business model – perhaps exporting your IP instead
of exporting tangible food goods. A great example
of this is with A2 milk, where the A2 Corporation
simply licenses its patent rights around the world to
conduct genetic tests for developing A2 producing
herds, and selling A2 milk-containing products.
This demonstrates how you can expand export
revenue, promote New Zealand as an innovation
hub, and avoid potential damage to
Framework for local collaboration
Patents can also provide a framework for
collaboration in New Zealand. Patents can help
define what each party brings to the table in the
form of existing IP, and can also be used to define
how new IP is mutually owned (and exploited)
Peter Brown is a Senior
Associate at James & Wells.
Based in the Auckland office
Peter heads the Food & Beverage
IP team, whose key focus is
to help clients to strategically
capture commercial value from
their R&D through IP rights,
which can be bought, sold, or
licensed as intangible assets.
Recipe for success might be
your best kept secret
FMCG BUSINESS - SEPTEMBER 2015 43
Links Archive FMCG AUG 2015 FMCG OCT 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page