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What are "Intellectual Property Rights"?

Intellectual property (IP) refers to the property rights attached to creations of your mind. In other words, it refers to your proprietary knowledge. This can be an invention, industrial design, brand, artistic work, method of doing something, or even the application of an idea.

To be able to get a protectable IP right, your idea must be something new or original. However, figuring out whether you your idea is new or not is not always easy. You should do extensive searching first to see whether your idea has been done before. This can be done through many local or international patent, trade mark, or design databases. Of course, you should also do a regular internet search to see what has been done before. For Australians, you can get an idea of whether your idea has been protected by someone else in Australia by visiting IP Australia. But first, read to the end.

Applying for an Intellectual Property right to protect your idea can be critical if you want to build a business and establish your presence in a market. IP, if used in the right way, can be used to protect your idea before you launch your business. It can also be used to draw in funders, position yourself in the market as an innovator, and to keep competitors at bay.

Beware of making it public in the early days

If you are thinking that a patent or a design right might be what you need, be aware of publicity.

In today’s digital world, it is important to not publish your patent or design until your ownership has been confirmed. This means not tweeting about it, not putting it on Facebook and not writing about it in trade journals. In short, keep your idea out of the public domain.

Publishing your idea in any form may jeopardise your ability to claim a patent or design right before you even apply.

Different IP Rights

Some forms of IP require formal application and examination before you can claim a right to ownership. Others do not.

There are some rights that are not administered by the Patent, Trade mark, or Design Office of a country. In Australia, patents, trade marks, and designs are adminstered by IP Australia. Copyright and circuit layout rights are administered by the Department of Communications and the Arts. Business names, company names and domain names are not types of IP and are usually the domain of ASIC.

Before you apply for any IP rights, it is important to understand the differences between the four main rights and which one suits your idea.

You can use this website to help you develop a strategy for your IP or employ an attorney or qualified person. Ultimately though, you are responsible for protecting your IP.

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