Intellectual property: What businesses should know

When you hear the words ‘intellectual property’, do you know what it is and what it means? Let’s explore what intellectual property (“IP”) is and how it can help your business.

What is intellectual property (IP)?

IP is a product of the human mind or intellect. It is produced when a person exercises creative intellectual effort to generate something that could be said to be new, unique or original.

IP can be embodied in a myriad of different things.

In a business, there can be IP in brand names, logos, website content, brochures, creative designs, apps and computer programs, secret recipes, artwork, product packaging, photographs and images, and innovative products and processes, amongst a host of things.

Why should IP be protected?

Now more than ever it is important that innovative businesses with great ideas take steps to protect their IP, as it can often be the most valuable asset that a business can own.

The IP of a business can be what sets it apart from its competitors. It can therefore have significant marketplace value and consequently warrant protection under the law.

Unprecedented access to global information and resources in modern times can make it relatively easy for others to copy a business’ identity and offerings. When IP is not protected, others can freely copy what they like.

But when the IP of a business is protected, the business is given exclusive rights in that IP. This in turn can help a business secure for itself a competitive advantage.

What forms of IP exist and how can they be protected?

IP can exist in many different forms.

Commonly recognised forms include trade marks, designs, patents, copyright, domain names and business names.

Less well-known forms include confidential information, trade secrets, plant breeder’s rights and circuit layout rights.

Some forms of IP, such as patents, trade marks, designs, and plant breeder’s rights, can be protected by a registered IP right that is administered by IP Australia.

Other forms of IP, such as copyright, trade secrets, confidential information and circuit layout rights, do not need to be registered with IP Australia as protection can be afforded by other means.

IP is an important business tool

IP that is protected can provide many commercial advantages.

By protecting your IP, you are given a legal right to prevent unauthorised copying of that IP. You are therefore in a position to stop others who may be tempted to copy and this can act as a strong deterrent to competitors.

IP protected by a tangible right is a form of property and can be sold or licensed to others to generate income for a business.

Protected IP rights can help to increase the value and sale price of a business as it means that others are less likely to be able to provide a very similar business offering.

Protected IP rights can also signal to the market that your business has something that is unique and distinctive over your competitors. The IP embodied in the unique offering can help your business attract funding through investors or government grants. It can also be used as a bargaining tool in business deals or as a marketing tool to carve out a nice niche in a competitive market.

With the advantages that IP can provide, businesses operating in today’s environment cannot afford to ignore or become complacent about IP.

So whether your business is a start-up or already established, an understanding about what IP is and the role it can play in your business can help ensure that your business enjoys success.

If you want more information, please contact Davies Collison Cave to arrange a free initial 30-minute consultation to discuss your IP needs.

This article was written by Grace Chan who is a senior associate at Davies Collison Cave Pty Ltd. If you want to find out more about IP’s around your business, contact Grace on gchan@davies.com.au or (03) 9254 2777. Visit the Davies Collison Cave website for more information.

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