Okay, patents are boring.

They’re a tough slog to read (let alone understand) but for tech company Hazer and its investors they’re super important.

Hazer, which stands for ‘hydrogen and zero emission research’, is one of the few ASX-listed players dabbling in hydrogen after developing a technology for producing hydrogen and graphite from natural gas and iron ore.

Yesterday, after about two years, it scored its very first patent in Australia covering the core Hazer process.

The company is pursuing a total of four patent families, lodged in over 20 jurisdictions globally.

Hazer boss Geoff Ward says there is something called the international patent treaty which allows companies to use examination in certain countries to fast track examinations in others.

“Hopefully this is an important first step in securing, broad patent rights; not just in Australia, but globally,” Mr Ward told Stockhead.

In October last year, High Purity Alumina hopeful Altech (ASX:ATC) secured a patent over its “unique” process of producing HPA from kaolin clay.

For Altech, this was a four-year slog.

“I think Hazer understood it would be a long and arduous process,” Mr Ward says. “I don’t think there’s been anything unusual, to date, in the time it’s taken. It’s a multi-year process.

“Probably the key thing to focus on is that our patent rights are backdated to the day they are filed.”


Why are patents important?

They basically add a layer of protection in the event some dodgy operator tried to replicate the process.

“If we didn’t have the patent, we would be more exposed to someone else using the technology,” Mr Ward says.

“But patents aren’t your only protection; you are also protected by your designs, trade secrets, and knowhow.

“If someone did day ‘let’s try and replicate this’ through trial and error they could probably do some fast following.

“But don’t think it would be easy for someone to replicate the number of years of research that both University of Western Australia and Hazer have done.”

But it would be possible, so the patent adds a layer of protection as Hazer moves towards commercialisation.

Hazer has already licensed the tech to large cap miner Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN), which is building its own plant to supply the higher value graphite market.

Hazer’s focus is on hydrogen; namely high-quality hydrogen for the low emission transport markets.

“That’s where our major focus is now, developing our first demonstration plant to validate the technology at scale,” Mr Ward says.

“We’ve had a very successful pilot stage, and now we have to demonstrate that we can operate the process cost effectively, day in day out, to deliver two quality products in hydrogen and graphite.”

Hazer is looking for funding, offtake and gas supply partners for that project.

“We are currently progressing those discussions,” Mr Ward says. “We hope to have more news on that around the middle of the year.”

Going forward, Mr Ward says there’s value in Hazer pursuing its own hydrogen developments as well as licensing the tech to others.

“We’ve said that we will consider both business models as we go forward – owner-operator and licencing, or a combination of the two,” he says.

“All of those considerations will likely accelerate when we are able to show somebody a full scale working commercial demonstration plant.”