Intellectual Property

Types of Intellectual Property (“IP”) Protection

What types of intellectual property are there? Why should I care? Case Studies Fun Facts

Trademarks are distinctive designs, graphics, logo, symbols, words (or colour, sound or smell in some cases) or any combination of these that uniquely identifies your goods or services.

Registration of your trademark results in number of benefits

  • It enables you to more easily sue someone infringing your trademark;
  • it acts as a bar to the registration of another similar mark; and

may serve as the basis for an international trademark application.

“Playgo” held to be deceptively similar to “Playgro” and therefore infringing.Given the imperfect recollection of consumers, the judge considered that there was a danger of purchasers thinking that the two products sold by reference to the Playgo logo and Playgro Marks came from the same source. Trademarks can far exceed in value other assets of the business e.g. in 2016 Coca Cola’s trademark was valued at $US73.1B

Copyright – “to be or not to be” Copyright provides protection to “original” works e.g. books, plays, computer programs, paintings, , architectural plans, photographs, musical works, films, TV and radio broadcasts.

Copyright protection stops others from profiting from your original work and lasts for the lifetime of the producer plus 50 years. Do you own the copyright or does your employee?

As employer you do, if the creator is an employee and created the work as part of their job.

Ownership of copyright rights can be transferred from one person to another under their will.
Trade secrets – ssssshhh!

Any secret commercial information that provides one business with an advantage over another.

The information must have three characteristics,

  • it is used in a trade or business;
  • the disseminationof it is limited and

if disclosed, liable to cause real harm to the owner of the secret.

You can obtain a court order to prevent the disclosure of trade secrets, or to prevent the use of trade secrets by employees in any subsequent business or employment. Items held to be trade secrets

  • Formulae for the products in manufacturing.
  • Customer lists
  • Pricing information
  • Product costing information

General skill and knowledge that a person of ability necessarily acquires in his or her business or calling is not a trade secret.

Cyber theft is on the rise, and it has been reported that 90% of Cyber theft involve trade secrets.
Domain names e.g. “” can be protected by registering them. Domain prospectors are on the look-out for trading businesses without an on-line presence and will register the domain name themselves and ask an inflated price for the transfer. Domain name disputes typically arise when domain names which incorporate third party trademarks are registered.

e.g., was held to be identical or confusingly similar to the trademarks of PepsiCo Inc.

Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate Produced a list of 138 Turkish and English words to web-hosting companies, banning their use in domain names on the Turkish Internet. Among the banned English words are: “beat,” “escort,” “homemade,” “hot,” “nubile,” “free” and “teen.”

Despite the increased marketing focus on ascetics (e.g. a products shape, configuration, pattern and ornamentation), the law protecting designs is amongst the least utilised of all intellectual property protections.

Designs that are new & distinctive and responsible for the overall appearance of a product can be registered.

A design registration protects your product designs from imitation.

It gives you exclusive rights to commercially use, licence or sell the design for 5 years, with an option to extend this protection for a further 5 years.

“Playgo” held to be deceptively similar toExamples of successful enforcement of design registration include: –

  • Plastic packing – fruit punnets
  • Car – Rear tail light products

An inhaler for use in asthma treatment.

Click the attached link to review the 2016 winner of the International design award


A patent is a legally enforceable “monopoly” right to commercially exploit an invention for the life of the patent.

An invention can be any device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful.

Obtaining a patent can give you a substantial competitive advantage. It precludes others from using you invention for up to 20 years (25 for pharmaceuticals)

If you demonstrate, sell or discuss your invention in public before filing anapplication, you may not get a patent.

If you want to discuss it with employees or business partners, have them sign a confidentiality agreement.

Classic Patent Cases: –

Wording designed to preclude subsequent improvements to an invention was found to go beyond the scope of patentable protection and was not allowed.

The inventor of a steel corset-spring’s patent was held invalid because it had been used in public and because a corset incorporating the spring was given as a gift without restriction to keeping it secret

A live, man-made organism was held to be an article of manufacture, and thus protectable under patent law.

Australia’s first approved patent application was lodged by of Andrew Brown McKenzie, 20, Harold street, South Melbourne, shipwright, for improvements in an air leak preventive for the Westinghouse brakes, on locomotives.

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