Artists and creatives build their career from making something out of nothing, the product of which often involves significant time and effort. This product is your intellectual property. To lose your work because someone else has copied it is discouraging and disrespectful. It is always the best policy to ensure you have done everything you can to protect your intellectual property. Below, we set out our top 5 tips to protect your IP.
1. Copyright it
This form of IP protection is the most practical and most efficient way to protect your IP because it’s both quick and free. Copyright protection is automatic as long as what you have produced is an original creative, intellectual or artistic work. Under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), this also includes a table of words and figures and a computer program.
To copyright your work, place a copyright notice when the work is published. The most efficient way is to include the © symbol, your name and the year the work is created.
2. Register your design
If you are a designer who has designed something for industrial or commercial use, then a further layer of protection is necessary to register your design. A design is a shape, configuration, pattern or ornament. Notably, a design must be both new and distinctive to be registered.
To register your design, you must apply to IP Australia to have your design examined and certified. If your registration is successful, it will be protected for up to five years, which can then be extended to ten. Ensure that you have not published or exhibited your design anywhere before applying, either online (including all social media) and offline, as this may hinder your chances of registration.
3. Register your trade mark
A trade mark is used to protect your brand, which is not merely your logo but can also include a phrase, word, picture or combination of them all. It is essentially a way customers can uniquely identify your business from others.
It is important to note that a trade mark is different to design. While a design must be new and distinctive, a trade mark does not – it refers to more of the branding of a product rather than its visual features.
To register your trade mark, you must file an application with IP Australia. If and once this is approved, you must then apply to have it registered, before which the trade mark will be advertised for two months to allow for any opposition to be raised. The process will take a minimum of 7 months. Once registered, the trade mark will last for up to 10 years from its filing date.
4. Patent protection
Patents are used to protect an invention, including appliances, mechanical devices, technology-related inventions, biological inventions and business methods. Patents give you the exclusive right to exploit your invention commercially. However, you are also required to disclose publicly how your invention works.
The drawback of a patent is its cost. It is recommended that you only use this method if you would like to protect the way your invention works and if you are confident, the commercial return of your invention will outweigh the time and cost it will take to patent it. If undecided, you can apply for a provisional application that is relatively inexpensive and will allow you 12 months to decide if a full application is worth the cost.
If you have any questions about protecting your creation and intellectual property, our IP lawyers can assist.