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News article17 May 2021

A more sustainable world, thanks to an SME and its relationship with intellectual property

IP Day

Spirit Design is a leading international strategic design company based in Vienna. Their team of consultants and designers assists customers in selected target industries to prepare for the future through the development and implementation of key innovation and branding strategies.

Georg Wagner, the owner, joined IP Key Latin America during the celebration of the World Intellectual Property Day. During a conversation with César E. Fernández, from the Latin America IP SME Helpdesk, he discussed the experiences he has had as a businessman in protecting his intellectual property rights.

“Why do we focus so much on intellectual property (IP)? Because we develop technologies and then create by-products. We need to register patents, designs and trade marks", explains Wagner as he introduces Spirit Design and his Brazilian venture, Atmove.

Both are based on the same concept: creating visions and bringing them to life in cooperation with their partners and customers. These visions are key to the development of smart products or services and innovative business models, such as the biomethane mobility initiative that has been underway in Brazil since 2015.

Expanding comes at a certain price

The entrepreneur stated that "In Brazil, we focus on agriculture and transportation as these sectors account for a large share of global emissions. By developing Bio-CNG solutions for the field (CNG vehicle fleets) it is possible to reduce up to 97% of CO2 emissions if replacing diesel, as well as to generate up to 50% savings in fuel costs and create a systemic solution for a circular business model (agricultural waste transformed into fuel and fertiliser)”.

Having learned some valuable lessons from their experience in Austria and the European Union, the project in Brazil required an initial study showing the huge potential of biomethane in the local market. Subsequently, they worked out contracts and frameworks with their local partner, Itaipu-PTI (CIBiogás), establishing that they were responsible for IP rights. Wagner recalls that it was necessary to "think of a strategy to protect the development of tractors like Atmove”.

This strategy involved the registration of various IP assets in Austria and the EU (word mark, figurative mark, design patent, patent) and the subsequent transfer of IP rights to the company Spirit Design/Atmove Limitada. Lastly, it was also necessary to register the IP rights, which were shared with their local partners, in Brazil. According to Wagner himself, this last part was the most difficult and costly, "We had some experience in Austria, but transferring the patents to our local partners in Brazil was very expensive. Maybe we underestimated a bit the cost of local lawyers and the patent transfer".

Shaping a vision in international markets

Atmove's efforts were rewarded in 2018 when, after three years developing the prototype Biogas plant and the Ch4pa tractor, they were able to give a full demonstration together with their local partners.

Atmove Technology seeks to combine high and low technology, tropicalise their developments and generate products that are cost-efficient and long-lasting. The IP rights are very important, because the business model is, to produce the technical solutions locally by licence production partners, who are also able to do support local sales and maintanance. And, thanks to the timely registration of their IP rights, Wagner can now see companies like New Holland and Scania introducing CNG-fueled lorries and tractors in different markets without worrying, in contrary, new biomethane technologies with new IP rights are on the way.

Wagner's own patent attorney is convinced that if companies were aware of all the steps as well as the financial and time implications of international expansion from the beginning, they would probably choose not to enter new markets. And this is the main reason why the entrepreneur recommends being thoroughly informed beforehand, through the support of programs such as the Latin America IP SME Helpdesk, in order to achieve a successful transition.

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