technological advances in the energy industry are critical to its future. I think that is well recognised by the energy industry which is also doing quite a bit of work on its branding, e.g. through the Bright-R programme. You have presented on innovations in Floating LNG (FLNG) technology and hydrogen. What are the key intellectual property considerations in this area? I was introduced to FLNG technology as a client considered exploitation of the Scarborough field off North West Western Australia. I found the idea of processing plant integration with ship design of great interest at a time when FLNG technology was still developing from concept to implementation. Now of course, we have Shell operating its Prelude field through FLNG technology. I think the FLNG approach has many benefits but will need collaboration between ship builders and the energy industry to develop the dream FLNG vessel. Patent landscaping is a way to find potential areas for collaboration as I presented to an APPEA conference in 2017. In your experience providing IP strategy advice to the automotive industry, what new innovations and opportunities will the Australian automotive industry need to embrace to ensure its future? Wow – there is no short answer to this question. The economics certainly seem to be against large scale vehicle manufacture in Australia. The trend, from my discussion with people familiar with the field, is towards manufacture in China, India and other Asian countries. That said, Europe has been able to maintain a viable automotive industry. There is room for niche developments though, possibly in electric vehicle or hydrogen vehicle design and operation. For example, if we take electric vehicles, how can charging be made efficient and attractive so that we can overcome the range problem with current electric vehicles? On hydrogen, work needs to be done on efficient onboard systems. Australia can be a leader in addressing these issues without having a huge manufacturing industry. Rather, we would supply technology rather than end product vehicles. A great example of a WA company that developed important engine technology is Orbital Engine Corporation that developed leading edge fuel injection technology. There’s lots of potential.
As a regular presenter and author on IP topics what do you enjoy most when you are sharing your passion and knowledge with your audiences? I really enjoy presentations – both the research that goes into a quality presentation but also the event of presentation itself. What I am really looking for is audience engagement, so I like questions, especially tougher questions that allow presenter and audience members to learn together. To do that needs passion which you can’t script but, focussed on a topic you enjoy, it tends to come across. And finally, when you are not providing IP advice to your clients how do you keep yourself busy? That’s an easy question to answer with the recent COVID-19 shutdowns, cooking! I have spent a lot of time trying to perfect a chicken curry. I’m also experimenting with new things, trying to make falafel as I write this actually…Also, I love wine and will endlessly search for the perfect pinot noir. Then, there is nothing like a walk along the waterfront or beach in Fremantle. There’s a new photo to take every day!
What IP advice do you give to start-up companies and how does it differ when advising a large multinational? While I recognise differences in scale and available resources, I advise my start-up/SME clients to operate, so far as resources allow, like a large corporation or multi-national. That is, focus on business strategy, avoid alluring diversification and act in a sophisticated way with business partners and prospects. I think this can make a big difference because others will see this as a sign of confidence and even quality. The IP strategy is key here, marshalling those scarce resources to key markets and – in the case of patent – technological developments. It is also worth remembering that even large companies are very focused on where the IP budget is spent so it is not a case of covering all potential markets. Stay with key markets and an IP advisor will be able to assist with the sometimes difficult decisions that arise. What did you learn through your role as President of The Institute of Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys of Australia (IPTA)? I learnt a lot actually. In my two years as President, I was blessed with a talented and energetic Council and we focussed – along with busy lobbying effort – on a couple of key areas. We saw and acted on expanding our work on education and professional development for younger members of the profession (also an issue for energy industry young professionals too by the way). Education has always been one of IPTA’s strengths but there are other areas of professional development on which younger professionals look for advice. They want to be involved in the process too so IPTA has worked on this. I’d like to especially acknowledge Wrays colleague, and IPTA Vice President, Jennifer McEwan for her efforts on this. We have been discussing the issues since we were young professionals ourselves.
“ Doing what the competitors are doing does not offer di fferentiation and a road to better margins. The way to better margins is intel lectual property. ”