Intellectual property rights are one of the most valuable assets of any business, as they establish the original creations which make your brand unique. Among other things, intellectual property rights include trade marks, copyright, designs, and patents. Protecting your intellectual property from competitors and infringements is fundamental to the success of your business. This article will explore the intricacies of intellectual property protection and provide you with important guidance on how to protect your rights.
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property is a legal term for the new and original creations of your mind. There are different forms of intellectual property which are protected in different ways. Some require formal application to claim legal ownership, while others are automatically protected under the Australian law. As a business, it is important to understand the different forms of intellectual property rights and ensure that the correct steps are taken to protect them.
Types of intellectual property rights
Relevant intellectual property rights that businesses may wish to protect include:
- Trade marks
Trade marks protect your intellectual property rights in an identifying aspect of your business. This may include a logo, colour, sound, scent, picture or phrase. Businesses must register their trade marks to gain exclusive rights to use, sell and licence whatever they have marked.
Patents protect your intellectual property rights in new and useful inventions, methods or processes. Businesses must formally apply for a patent in order to receive legal protection. Upon approval, a patent will give you the right to exploit the invention commercially for the duration of the patent.
Copyright protects the expression of original ideas such as books, artwork and music, but not the ideas themselves. Copyright is a form of intellectual property which is automatically protected without registration.
Businesses may register a design to protect their intellectual property rights in the visual appearance of a product. This is particularly relevant for retailers who create products which are new and distinctive in appearance.
- Trade secrets and other confidential information
Trade secrets and other confidential information are not registrable forms of intellectual property. As such, businesses must ensure they have other processes to protect their trade secrets. This may include confidentiality agreements with employees or distributors.
How do I protect intellectual property?
- Keep your intellectual property confidential
If your idea is unregistrable, such as a trade secret, it is crucial that you keep your idea confidential. If you are able to register your intellectual property and are in the process of doing so, make sure not to talk to others about your idea. If this is necessary, it may be helpful to use a non-disclosure agreement to prevent others from sharing your idea without consent.
- Register your intellectual property
You can legally protect your trade marks, patents and design rights by registering them with IP Australia. However, businesses should be wary of not using registration as their sole form of protection, as intellectual property rights require constant supervision to prevent infringement. Additional protection such as trade mark watching can ensure ongoing protection of intellectual property.
- Review your employment contracts
Businesses should review their contracts to ensure they include intellectual property and confidentiality clauses. This ensures that employees understand their rights in regard to their creations for the business, prior to entering into employment.
- Have infringement processes in place
It is important to have an infringement strategy in place to know what to do when there are any potential breaches of your intellectual property rights. Businesses should have a clear strategy for identifying potential infringements and legally enforcing their intellectual property rights.
- Intellectual property rights protect the new and original creations of your mind, and include trade marks, patents, copyright and designs.
- Some intellectual property rights require registration to receive legal protection, while others are automatically protected. Business should ensure they understand their different intellectual property rights and how to protect them.
- Businesses should have multiple avenues in place to protect intellectual property rights. These include registration, reviewing contracts, and having infringement processes in place.
Gladwin Legal are experts in intellectual property and have extensive experience in helping businesses protect their brand from infringements. If you require assistance in drafting confidentiality policies, reviewing contracts, trade mark watching or creating an infringement strategy, please contact us at or 1300 033 934.