The intellectual property (IP) that your new or existing business venture derives its success from is undoubtedly one of its most valuable assets. For many businesses, IP law protects beyond just the idea or concept – it goes to protecting the intangible assets that are potentially integral to the core services of the business and its long-term success. You may be surprised at the scope of your IP and just how much of your business can be protected. IP consists of things ranging from a name and logo, to services and processes that sets your business apart from the competition.

Why You and Your Business Need IP Protection

In an article written by the Intellectual Property division of the Australian Government, Chris Heyring, NOROCK’s founder and inventor who has had 25 years of experience in commercialising ideas, has lodged some 75 patent applications here in Australia. In his interview, he points to IP protection as a demonstration that the company has the capability to look after its business legally and that in the eyes of potential licensees, manufacturers and product distributors, NOROCK is recognised as a serious company with innovative technologies that are completely protected by IP. Chris Heyring talked about instances where his company dealt with other companies ‘borrowing’ the technologies and even going as far as lodging patents of almost carbon copies and manufacturing duplicates!

It’s no surprise that when these ideas or technologies or processes are used without permission, a business can and will suffer. Copyright piracy, trademark counterfeiting, and patent infringement have become significant problems in the business community, including in the arena of small businesses and especially in the startup arena. Without IP protection, your unique product or service can easily be passed off by competitors as their own taking away from you crucial market share. This will inevitably deteriorate vital early phase revenues.

In today’s world, where businesses actively use the Internet to reach international audiences relatively cheaply, businesses are also exposing themselves to intellectual theft – making IP protection even absolutely crucial.

This is why it makes absolute commercial sense to get advice from the experts. Our Lazarus Legal advisors, have developed a tried-and-tested approach to securing IP protection. Lazarus Legal is able to:

– Exploit and commercialise your IP to the full extent

– Safeguard and protect your IP against violation and infringement, giving you the ability to legally defend your rights to it;

– Prevent the reproduction by others without your express permission;

– Afford you the potential to earn royalties by licensing it;

– Exploit it through strategic alliances; and

– Profit from selling it.

The Different Ways You Can Protect Your Intellectual Property

As the owner of IP, it is your responsibility to ensure you establish the protection and enforce the rights that come with it. This is how to protect your intellectual property:

1. Copyright

Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection. It arises naturally if you are able to show that your work is original and is fixed in a tangible form. The most common categories of works that are able to be copyrighted include things such as paintings, literary works, live performances, photographs, movies and software source code.

An important thing to remember with copyright law is that while it covers every medium in which a work exists, it does not cover:

– IP in new ideas – however Lazarus Legal can provide you with the confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements necessary when discussing your new product or service with third parties, customers or potential investors;

– Names, titles slogans or phrases. If this is in fact the type of IP you wish to protect, the experts at Lazarus Legal will be able to discuss registering this IP as a trade mark.

– Products or industrial processes. Lazarus Legal can instead have these protected through patent protection or design registration.

Your rights as a copyright owner are geared towards protecting the blood, sweat and tears you put into your work. Copyright provides you with the ability to do things like reproduce your work, distribute copies, perform and display the work publicly. On top of that, it allows you to authorise other individuals or companies to do the same – at a price. So not only does it afford protection over your hard-earned IP, but it also provides a vehicle through which you can begin to realise a return.

2. Design Registration

A design is what makes a product look the way it does, be it it’s shape, configuration (3D), pattern or ornamentation (2D). When this design is applied to the product, it in effect, gives it a unique appearance. It is this uniqueness, which generally goes to the heart of the businesses’ brand recognition, that a design right aims to protect. If you intend on commercialising your design, the Intellectual Property division of Australia recommends seeking the advice of an intellectual property lawyer during the process, as they make very specific contributions essential to a successful design application, registration and its eventual commercialisation. This will give an owner of a registered design a monopoly over that design for a maximum period of 10 years. With this, you will be able to make a product that embodies the design, go on to sell the product that embodies the design and licence-out your design to someone else in return for a fee, by giving them permission to use your designs on agreed terms and conditions.

3. Trademark

A trade mark is not simply just a logo. It is the unique identifier of your product or service that distinguishes it from other traders and competition. Commonly referred to as a brand, it is how your customers discern not only the ownership of a particular product or service but also its quality over that of your competitors. It can be a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, movement, aspect of packaging, or combination of these. So too can the name of your business become a registered trademark. However purely registering a company name with ASIC does not itself give you automatic trademark protection. The protection will come with the registration of the name as a trade mark separately. Like a design right, a trade mark will last 10 years from the filing date and can be renewed between 12 months before the renewal is due, or up to six months thereafter.

4. Patent

This is for all you inventors out there. If you have created a new invention, you should consider protecting it by a patent. Without your permission, no other person is able to make it, use it or sell it. Your invention could be a device, substance, method or process and when granted, the patent will give you these rights for 20 years. By doing this, you essentially keep competition at bay and protect your market share in the best possible way. This is where you must be careful – do not take or discuss your invention with the public too soon. Especially any time before you have successfully registered a patent over it. Once achieved your rights include the ability to license your patent for others to use, or you could sell it, just as you could do with any asset. This can provide an important source of revenue for your business. Indeed, some businesses exist solely to collect the royalties from a patent they have licensed.

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