It is important to note the fundamentals of protecting your intellectual property (IP) and getting your IP strategy right when starting your business.
Identifying Your IP
Starting a new business is exciting, and it is often when much of your intellectual property is created. There are many things that differentiate you from your competitors, whether it is your business name or a new innovative processes you have created. As your business grows, it will become more important to protect your intangible assets.
Your IP Options
It is important to understand the characteristics and advantages of the different types of IP. Patents protect inventions, while the way something looks is protected by a design registration. Registered trademarks protect a brand including the name and logo of your business.
Until your idea is protected, keep it confidential. If you are sharing your idea with others, use a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to prevent others from disclosing your idea without permission.
If registering for a patent or design is an interest of yours, maintaining secrecy until your application has been filed is a crucial step. While you may choose to keep your invention a secret rather than applying for a patent, which is known as a trade secret, it does mean if someone discovers your trade secret and you do not have a patent application in place, there is nothing stopping them from utilising your invention.
For example, the formula for Coca-Cola has remained a trade secret for generations. There is no patent protection, and therefore no onus on the company to publicly disclose the recipe. Trade secrets work best where the product is difficult to reverse engineer or replicate, and the knowledge can be protected with confidentiality agreements.
Register Your Idea or Brand
Registering a patent, trade mark or design with IP Australia can offer protection for your intellectual property. When determining whether to protect your intellectual property, the positives and negatives of each rights must be examined to assist with your decision making. Speak to a Patent and/or Trade Mark Attorney in the first instance if you are considering pursuing intellectual property protection.
You must commercialise your idea to bring your idea to market. Using a model of your invention can assist with finding and convincing prospective financial backers to envision your idea and its market potential. However, it is important that you do not disclose your idea before filing for the relevant intellectual property right and/or having a confidentiality agreement in place.
It is imperative that research is conducted to understand possible consumers, buyers, licensees, investors, manufacturers, and distributors. Market research can be the basis for determining the unit cost and the competitiveness of your product.
Patent, trade mark and design databases can be used to ensure your ideas are original and do not infringe the rights of others. These databases can be found below:
- Trade marks – The Australian Trade Mark Search
- Patents – The Australian Patent Search (AusPat).
- Designs – The Australian Design Search
Searching for new business opportunities and competitor activities can provide the edge needed to successfully execute your idea.
It is important to monitor your intellectual property rights and the market. In the event that you believe your product is being infringed, speak to your Patent and/or Trade Mark Attorney immediately. Infringement of your intellectual property can cause a decline in market share, and poor-quality imitations can rapidly shatter your brand’s reputation.
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