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You may have heard the term ‘intellectual property’ but have not been entirely sure what it means. If you develop a new product, a distinctive brand, or invent a new process for a service, this is your intellectual property. Since you developed these creations, intellectual property law attempts to protect your rights to your creations. To help you better understand the legal term intellectual property, this article explains three of the most common types of intellectual property rights and how they can benefit your business.

Trade Marks 

Put simply, trade marks protect the features of a brand that make it distinguishable. This includes your business name, logo and slogan, as well as the unique shape, colour and even scents of your business product. A registered trade mark provides its owner with the exclusive right to use, license and sell their trade mark. This means that in the instance where someone copies or misuses your trade mark, you can enforce your intellectual property rights by pursuing a claim for trade mark infringement.

Australian law recognises both registered and unregistered trade marks. To obtain a registered trade mark, you must apply to the government agency IP Australia. Once IP Australia approves your trade mark application, you obtain the exclusive right to use that mark for 10 years from the filing date. On the other hand, an unregistered trade mark can exist without IP Australia’s approval. However, unlike a registered trade mark, you will have to prove that you have rights concerning an unregistered trade mark in the instance where someone copies or misuses your mark. You must prove that your mark:

  • has gained a sufficient reputation in the marketplace; and
  • is recognisable by consumers.

In this sense, a registered trade mark can provide more robust protection of your intellectual property rights.

How Your Business Can Benefit From Trade Marks

Your business can widely benefit from registering a trade mark for the reasons outlined below.

Benefit

Explanation

Competitive Advantage

Since you gain the exclusive right to use your mark, no one can copy or misappropriate the features of your business that set it apart from others in the market. In this sense, a registered trade mark can help your business gain a competitive advantage in the market by remaining distinguishable from your competitors. 

Increase Your Brand Value 

Trade marks are also intangible assets whose value is often indicative of the goodwill of your business. Goodwill refers to your business’ overall reputation and customer loyalty. If you go on to sell your business, a registered trade mark can increase the sale price. 

Options to Licence

You can open up additional income streams by granting licensing rights to another party.

Patents

A patent is another form of intellectual property right. Patents can protect a wide range of inventions like biological inventions, business methods and computer software. The patent owner has a legally enforceable right to exclude others from making, using or selling their innovative device or process.

Australian law recognises both registered patents and unregistered patents, which are also referred to as trade secrets. Once IP Australia has approved your standard patent application, your invention is protected for up to twenty years. However, for your invention to qualify for a standard patent, the innovation must: 

  • be original, in the sense that the invention is different from existing technology in the industry; 
  • require an inventive step, in the sense that it is not an obvious thing to do for someone experienced in the field of the invention; and
  • be able to be manufactured or useful in the industry. 

On the other hand, you can still protect an invention that you do not register with IP Australia through confidentiality agreements. A trade secret can be any piece of confidential information that is valuable, like an invention. However, once a trade secret becomes public knowledge, it can lose its status as an intellectual property right. This is because secrecy no longer protects it from being commercialised by others.

How Your Business Can Benefit From Patents

If your business established a new and valuable invention, it can widely benefit from applying for a standard patent for the reasons outlined below.

Benefit

Explanation

Commercial Opportunities

A standard patent also gives you the right to licence your invention to another party on agreed terms or eventually sell your invention. This can open up additional streams of income for your business. 

Competitive Advantage

Since you gain the exclusive right to use and exploit your invention, you can develop products and services that are unique in your specific industry. Therefore, this can allow your business to gain a competitive advantage in the market. 

Copyright

Copyright law protects most creative materials ranging from literary and artistic works to musical and dramatic works. Ultimately, copyright ensures that other people cannot copy or communicate your original material without first obtaining your permission. You will likely find works protected by copyright will carry copyright notices. These typically include the symbol ‘©,’ followed by the creator’s name and the date that you created the copyrighted material. The duration of copyright protection also depends on the form your original works take. Generally, copyright protects original works for seventy years after the death of its creator.

Unlike trade marks and patents, you do not need to apply for copyright protection in Australia. Instead, copyright law automatically applies to original material once it is recorded or inscribed. That is to say, copyright will protect your novel once you write it down. 

How Your Business Can Benefit From Copyright

If your business produces original content, it can widely benefit from copyright protection for the reasons outlined below. 

Benefit

Explanation

Exclusive Rights

Copyright prevents others from reproducing your original material without your permission. In the instance where they infringe on your copyright, you can take legal action to enforce your exclusive rights. 

Commercial Opportunities

You can benefit from royalties or licensing fees if you decide to grant another party permission to reproduce your original materials. This way, you can open up additional streams of income for your business. 

Key Takeaways

The legal term intellectual property refers to the property of your mind, such as a distinctive brand you have created or new innovation. Intellectual property law attempts to protect your rights to your creations by recognising trade marks, patents and copyright. In a general sense, these rights allow you to use your intellectual property to the exclusion of others. If you have any questions about protecting your business’ intellectual property, LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers can help. Call us on 1300 544 755 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a registered trade mark?

A registered trade mark protects the features of a brand that make it distinguishable. For example, this can include a business name, logo or slogan, as well as a product’s unique shape, colour or smell. 

What is the difference between the ‘™’ sign and the ‘®’ sign?

The ‘™’ sign can be used for either registered or unregistered trade marks, whereas you can only use the reserved symbol ‘®’ for registered trade marks. The purpose of using these symbols is to notify others that a trade mark protects your unique name, logo or slogan.

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