Intellectual property

Your great ideas should be your own. Learn how to protect them.

Brendon Christian

Reviewed by Brendon Christian of Christian. The Law Firm*

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What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is intangible assets which arise out of creativity or innovation. These creations include inventions, literary and artistic works. Intellectual property also extends to any confidential information which is technical or commercial in character.

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Why is intellectual property important?

Often new businesses hinge upon new ideas, creations or inventions which are all types of intellectual property, and all businesses have confidential information, which is technical or commercial in nature. These are are valuable and core assets of your business. You need to be aware of IP rights so that you can

  • protect your assets
  • prevent others from using your IP
  • use, licence and transfer ownership of your right to use your IP
  • avoid infringing other people’s IP

Potential investors (and potential buyers in the future) will want to make sure that you have taken steps to protect your business-crictical IP before they invest (or buy) To transfer ownership certain IP rights to another business, you can use an assignment of intellectual property agreement. This will ensure that the rights are correctly identified and assigned. To licence rights to use your intellectual property you will need an intellectual property licence.

What are the main types of intellectual property?

Trade marks

Trade marks are signs which distinguish the goods and services of a particular business (its brand). Trademarks come in many different forms, the most common being logos and words and slogans. For more information read Trade marks.

Patents

A patent protects your inventions so that no one else can copy, manufacture sell or import without permission for up to 20 years. The new inventions must be new, involve an inventive step and be capable of industrial application. For further information read Patents.

Registered and unregistered design rights

Design rights protect how a product looks and prevent others from copying it. Unregistered rights automatically arise on creation of the product and providing the design is new and original you can apply to register the design at the Intellectual Property Office. For further information read Registered and unregistered design rights.

Copyright

Copyright protects tangible creative works, such as novels, art, music and maps. There is no need to register copyright and can last up to 70 years after the death of the creator. For more information read Copyright.

Protecting your ideas and confidential information

Protecting valuable and sensitive information should be a priority for any business. if you are going to share business secrets consider signing a legally binding confidentiality agreement (also known as a non-disclosure agreement or (NDA) before sharing confidential information with another business. You can either use a one-way confidentiality agreement if only one business is sharing information, or a standard two way NDA if two businesses are sharing information.

How to remedy a breach of your IP rights

If someone uses your IP without permission, an intellectual property cease and desist letter will inform the person that they are using your IP without consent and ask them to stop and refrain from using it in future. Read Cease and desist letters for further information.

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