Intellectual Property: What You Need to Know

1st September 2022

Intellectual property (IP) is one of the most important aspects of any business.

It encompasses everything from trademarks and copyrights to patents and trade secrets. Without IP protection, businesses can find their hard-earned IP stolen or copied by competitors. Here’s a breakdown of each category and how you can go about protecting them.

What is copyright, and what does it protect?

Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship, such as books, movies, music, and architectural designs. Copyright doesn’t protect ideas, only their expression.

For example, you can’t copyright the idea of a story about a young wizard going to a magic school, but you could copyright the Harry Potter books.

Registering a copyright for your work or business in Australia

You don’t need to register for copyright in Australia. The moment an idea or creative concept is documented on paper or electronically it is automatically protected by copyright in Australia. Copyright protection is free and automatic under the Copyright Act 1968.

Copyright protection can differ depending on the type of copyright material and if it has been made public. Generally copyright lasts for:

  • 70 years for works after the death of the author
  • 70 years from publication for sound recordings and films after being made public
  • 50 years for television and radio broadcasts after being broadcast.
  • When copyright expires, the material falls into the public domain and may be freely used.

What is a trademark, and how do you get one for your business?

A trademark is a word, phrase, logo, or symbol that identifies your business and distinguishes it from your competitors. Think of the Nike Swoosh or the Golden Arches of McDonalds. You can register a trademark for your business in Australia through IP Australia. The application process can be quite complex, so it’s advisable to seek professional help before applying.

What is patent protection, and how do you apply for it?

A patent is a right granted for any device, substance, method or process that’s new, inventive and useful. It’s a legally enforceable right to commercially exploit the invention for the life of the patent. Think of the John Deere tractor or the Dyson vacuum cleaner.

To get a patent, you must first apply to the patent office in Australia. Again, the application process can be quite complex, so it’s good to seek professional advice.

Don’t forget trade secrets

Trade secrets are a type of IP that can include everything from customer lists to recipes. Unlike other forms of intellectual property, trade secrets aren’t registered with the government. An example might be KFC’s secret herbs and spices! Instead, they’re protected by contract law. This means that businesses must take steps to keep their trade secrets secret, such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and employment contracts.

When to think about compliance with intellectual property law

You might start thinking about intellectual property law compliance when you first create a new product or service. By protecting your intellectual property early on, you can prevent others from stealing or copying your work.

Intellectual property law can be complex, but it’s important to have a basic understanding of the types of IP and their application processes. By taking the time to learn about IP, you can safeguard your business’s most valuable assets.

How to stay safe from IP infringement lawsuits

There are a few things you can do to stay safe from IP infringement lawsuits in your business dealings:

  • Make sure you have the right licenses and permissions in place before using someone else’s intellectual property.
  • Do your research to ensure you’re not infringing on someone else’s IP rights.

Keep good records of your own intellectual property, so you can prove ownership if necessary.

Keeping the intellectual in intellectual property

IP is a critical part of any business and should be protected at all costs. If you’re not sure how, or if you need help enforcing your existing IP protection, contact Lakis & Knight today for a free, one-hour discovery session.

We can help you get started on the right path to protecting your valuable IP. Ready to take the next step? Get in touch with us today to get started.