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About IP Australia
IP Australia is the government agency responsible for administering intellectual property (IP) rights for the economic benefit of Australians. As an agency of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science this organisation administers intellectual property rights and legislation relating to patents, trade marks, registered designs and plant breeder’s rights in Australia.
It is estimated that 3.3% of global trade is counterfeit, which is projected to cost US$4.2 trillion in lost revenues worldwide and to put 5.4 million jobs at risk in 2021.
Along with direct revenue loss, it puts reputation and future revenues of legitimate brands at risk. The only available deterrent against counterfeiters has been a legal lawsuit. Small business owners, however, were generally not able to take infringers to court because the court fees could amount to $100k-$130k – a sum hardly unaffordable to small manufacturers.
The innovation journey began in 2017 at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade ministers’ summit in Hanoi. Here, the Government of Vietnam, Google, and The Asia Foundation sponsored a software development hackathon to deliver an online platform helping small retailers build a digital presence and access markets beyond national borders.
Agile Digital’s strategy lead and team partner won the hackathon with the APEC Connect app. This app and platform were aimed at enabling the smallest business owners to build an online export identity to prove goods authenticity globally using blockchain technology.
This collaboration between Agile Digital and IP Australia was aimed at protecting Australian brands/businesses from counterfeiting in overseas markets. The Smart Trade Mark (STM) was conceived as a reliable tamper-proof digital fingerprint that can be used by buyers or other supply chain participants to ensure the authenticity of Australian produce.
The Smart Trade Mark trial was to demonstrate a world-first innovation to digitise the intellectual property right of brand identity (the trade mark). The Smart Trade Mark concept has been continued into beta phase trials by IP Australia as an economical, trusted, and sustainable method of online brand anti-counterfeiting that is accessible to registered trade mark owners, even small businesses.
We worked closely with IP Australia (as the Registrar of trade marks) to design the platform and validate the prototype in overseas markets, offering global consumers confidence in the origin and journey of Australian export goods.
The alpha-phase Smart Trade Mark innovation combined the identity strengths of emerging blockchain technology with the ‘identity right’ of a trade mark, to combat counterfeiting in global marketplaces. Every step in the supply chain of Australian-produced merchandise was registered in a tamper-proof blockchain ledger, where the products leave an indelible trace throughout its journey to consumers – domestic or international.
The process starts when a trade mark owner is authenticated by IP Australia and is issued an encrypted Smart Trade Mark along with the digital Certificate of Authority – “the master key”. The owner can authorise third parties with an operational authority over trademarked products through the issue of digital “restricted keys”. Authorised participants of the supply chain can include exporters, warehouses, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. And, finally, consumers can ascertain product authenticity by scanning a certificate on product packaging with a smartphone and tracing its entire journey, as proof of origin.
The initial Smart Trade Mark prototype platform was successfully demonstrated in export trials of Australian small goods (to Singapore) and wine (to China). This innovation of the Agile Digital and IP Australia teams was recognised by these Australian industry awards:
- The Australian Information Industry Association’s (AIIA) National Award for Public Sector & Government Innovation of the Year (2019)
- The Australian Information Industry Association’s (AIIA) ACT Awards for the Digital Canberra iAward, Public Sector & Government, and Infrastructure and Platforms Innovation of the Year (2019)
Smart Trade Mark has now been extended by IP Australia into its beta phase as a platform that is easily operable with online ecosystems as the “Trust Badge”.