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Automatic rights: These are IP rights that are automatically protected without the need for registration. In Australia, this consists of:

  • Copyright
  • Trade secrets
  • Circuit layouts

Circuit layouts: These are the original layout designs or plans of integrated circuits and computer chips. They are their own form of protectable IP and are automatic. Rights last for ten years and the owner of the circuit layout has the exclusive right to make integrated circuits from the layout, copy the layout in material form, and exploit it commercially. It is important to note that unlike other forms of protectable IP, circuit layout rights are the responsibility of the Government of the Department of Communications and the Arts rather than IP Australia.

Copyright: Copyright is an automatic and inherent right for owners of original works in Australia. Copyright protects the expression of an idea but not the idea itself. This form of protection gives the owner the exclusive right to use, reproduce, publish and communicate their work. Copyright also brings with it automatic moral rights for individual owners.
See also “Moral Rights”.

Design: A design is a configuration, pattern, shape or ornament. Design registration is a process of IP protection that will allow you to protect your design for industrial or commercial use as long as it is new and distinctive.

Innovation Patent: This patent lasts for up to 8 years and protects inventions that do not meet the threshold for standard patents. It is cheaper and faster to obtain IP protection for inventions. Innovation patents are in general granted with an examination. However, the patent owner will be unable to enforce the patent until it has been examined and certified.

Intellectual property (IP): This is property that is intangible and usually the result of originality and creativity. Paradoxically, ideas itself cannot be protected as IP under the law. To protect a form of IP, it must take some physical appearance or tangible form. IP may be protected under copyright, patents, designs, trademarks, plant breeder’s rights, and circuit layouts. Most forms of IP that can be protected are done so under IP Australia.

International trade mark: There is no universal trade mark and owners who wish to register their trademark internationally will either have to do so by personally filing directly to each country or through an application to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which will help you lodge a separate trademark in each country in one go. Note the process of going through WIPO is only available to the 97 countries included in the Madrid Protocol.

Moral Rights: In the context of IP protection, these rights refer to individual rights that belong to a creator of copyrighted work. Moral rights can be attached to all kinds of copyrighted work, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic or cinematographic works. There are three main moral rights:

  • Right to be attributed
  • Right not to be falsely attributed
  • Right of integrity of authorship

See “Copyright”.

Patent: A patent is a method of IP protection given to a new invention. This includes any device, substance, method, or process that is new, inventive and useful. A patent gives the owner a set of exclusive rights to use the invention for commercial purposes. Patents can be divided into either Standard Patent or Innovation Patent.

Plant Breeder’s Rights: This is a type of IP protection afforded to plant breeders who have developed a new species of plants that has not been seen before. This protection will give you exclusive commercial rights to the use, production, sale and distribution of the new species.

Standard Patent: A standard patent gives long term protection and control over an invention for up to 20 years. The patent must be new, involve an inventive step and be able to be made or used in industry. This means that the invention is not an obvious thing that can be done by someone with knowledge of the field of the invention, and it must also significantly differ from existing technology.
See also “Patent”.

Trade secrets: This is a type of IP protection given to any confidential information, including secret formulas, processes and methods used in production. Like copyright, this is an automatic protection and does not require registration. This is a common way to protect inventions without registering a patent, as by doing so the secret will need to be disclosed. However, this does not give you exclusive rights and can be difficult to maintain in the long term.

Trademark: A trade mark is a type of IP protection given to any sign that you use to distinguish the products and services of your business from other businesses. Trademarks can apply to words, numbers, slogans, logos, images, shapes, scents, sounds or a combination of the above. While trade marks can exist without registration, registering your trademark will provide certainty regarding legal protection and ensure you are recognised as the owner.


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