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How to Protect Your Intellectual Property

July 3, 2013 8:30 am

In this age of austerity, innovation is key to maintaining your revenue streams, investments, research and development. For these reasons, protecting your business’ intellectual property is an essential requirement. Currently, Australia has some of the most effective intellectual property protection systems globally, ranking number 8 in the world and 2nd in the Asia regions.*

Making sure that you have lined up your patents, trademarks and any distinctive design elements including your branding is imperative. On a basic level this will be covered by IP Australia, the commonwealth agency that is responsible for granting the rights over each of the aforementioned components. It is important to note that the agency also offers services to educate and inform the creators of their protective rights and to understand the overall Intellectual property protection scheme.

IP Australia

The Variety of Patent Protection Available

Australia’s patent act has been in place since the early 1990’s and holders of a standard or basic level patent are given the exclusive rights to sell, hire and otherwise dispose of their patent within a limit of 20 years. It also gives the holder the right to manufacture their product within Australia for sale and also for export purposes.

There is also the offer of a somewhat lesser patent protection system, the innovation patent. This is for persons who want some protection over their invention but at a lesser incentive threshold, which in short costs less money to obtain. Which you will fall under comes down to your personal business needs.

The Importance of Secrecy When Protecting Your Patents

As with any protection laws and regulations, the patent protection you will get does depend upon your business meeting certain criteria. The key criteria for patent protection is that the design, product or innovation is completely new. Not only does this mean that you will have to have a product that fills a specific need, niche or extends a current products usage, but it also means that the innovation must be kept ‘secret’ until the patent protection has been accepted.

The most common mistake made is the disclosure of design elements or usage to the public, disqualifying the patent from a protection agreement. If you are interested in obtaining a patent or design then maintaining your secrecy is of the uppermost importance.

If you have a special formula or chemical compound, you may prefer to never go public with the formula.  There are many reasons why you may prefer to do this rather than have a patent in place, but in general you will need to determine if this is going to be of greater benefit to you. If this is the move you feel is better for your company then you will need to look at protection for a ‘Trade Secret’.

If you feel that underpinning a ‘Trade Secret’ policy within your businesses will be most beneficial to you, then you will need to have confidentiality policies in place to secure your investment and protect against intellectual property theft.

Simple steps to take To maintain Your IP Rights

Along with putting a patent in place, protecting your trade secrets and keeping an overview of how much the outside world knows about your innovation, there are steps that businesses can take to build upon the levels of IP protection. The first and most important criteria to have met is to have thoroughly considered and researched the variety of ways you can integrate IP protection into your business strategy/plan. You will need to cover as many bases as possible, looking at patent protection, trademarks and branding as well as any literature and legal advice that you may need.

Always weigh the risks between having your products registered and unregistered, for example you may not want to wait for patent approval and opt for sending your product straight to market if it suits your business needs better.

Finally and equally as important is to have an IP protection scheme in place. This should involve regular audits, looking at whether you still own the rights to the intellectual property, an infringement strategy that includes insurance options and educating your staff on their obligations to the company.

*Resource: http://australia.gov.au/topics/law-and-justice/intellectual-property

Guest post written by Charlotte Walker, a business and personal finance writer with over 5 years experience with primary expertise in small business and startups.