A confluence of diverse businesses with quite different approaches to their IP occurred at the recent IP Business Congress under the cheekily named session “IP on the Grapevine”.

Assembled and moderated by influential IP lobbyist Peter Harter, the panel provided a refreshing discussion covering drones, kegs, finance, wine preservation and related IP issues.

Peter kicked off by giving an overview of IP in the wine industry, ably aided by graphics resulting from advanced patent searching tools.

The global wine industry is still largely traditional, however as noted by Peter, it needs greater mechanisation to be more economic. This is important because as noted by another panellist, it can take at least US$5.8million capital investment in twenty acres over twenty years before breakeven occurs.

Drones can help with providing intelligence on crop health and yield, enabling decisions on spraying, fertilising and harvesting. Brandon Basso, a twenty-something year old director of 3D Robotics (3DR) explained that they utilise an open source model for their drone business. This enabled 3DR to build a huge community with rapid adoption of the technology. This model can be effective in getting immediate cash flow – important for fledging start-ups.

We recommend that this model is adopted only if there is strategy that builds in returns from innovations made to the base technology. This can be achieved by if those innovations are patented, then either the original company benefits from  the subsequent monopoly through

  1. manufacturing the premium priced “improved” product, or
  2. licensing the improvements to those who adopted the base technology.

Heather Clauss of “Freeview Wines” spoke about their well-researched system of supplying quality wines on tap with zero degradation. This was achieved through using controlled atmosphere, material choice and good processes. However, their competitive advantage is the confidential know how and reputation they gained through providing reliable distribution and exchange of the kegs. In the end, the most highly valuable IP they will gain is the reputation behind their brand – which can be protected and leveraged through trade mark registrations.

Mike Rider, inventor of the Corvin™ wine preserver, follows a more traditional IP route. The Corvin™ enables wine to be poured from a corked bottle, then introduces inert gas into the bottle preserving the remaining wine. Mike’s company has a suite of 45 granted patents that assisted it in securing markets around the world.

The happy conclusion of this session, while enjoying a glass of wine provided earlier, was:

  • the wine industry (like most) has a plethora of IP – it is just a matter of recognising what gives a competitive advantage; and
  • different IP models can be devised to fit different business models.