Protecting your intellectual property
From logos and designs to inventions and products, all businesses have valuable ideas that need protecting. I spoke to an intellectual property expert to get advice for soloists on protecting your intellectual property.
I’d like to thank David Adamthwaite, co-partner of Adams Pluck Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys, for the generous sharing of his knowledge on protecting your intellectual property .
LL: What is a trade mark?
DA: In Australia, trade marks can be anything that acts as a ‘sign’ or ‘badge of origin’ to distinguish the goods and/or services of one trader from another. Examples include logos, words, phrases (such as tag lines and slogans), labels, an aspect of packaging, shapes, even smells, colours and sounds. For instance, the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle or the Intel Pentium Chip jingle are both trade marks. You can file a trade mark application to register a trade mark directly through IP Australia, or seek the expert advice and assistance of a patent and trade mark attorney.
LL: How can inventions be protected?
DA: Generally speaking, a patent is the grant of monopoly protection for an invention. An invention can be a widget, an apparatus, a new method for making something, for screening or diagnosis, and so on. Most Australian patent attorney firms, including ours, will not charge for an initial consultation to discuss the potential for pursuing patent protection for an invention.
"In Australia, trade marks can be anything that acts as a ‘sign’ or ‘badge of origin’ to distinguish the goods and/or services of one trader from another."
LL: Should an invention meet certain criteria in order to be patented?
DA: The basic requirements for patentability are that the invention must be: new, involves an inventive/innovative step, and has not been disclosed on a non-confidential basis.
Many companies won’t speak to an inventor or designer regarding potential investment in the development of an invention or design unless the inventor or designer has already filed a patent or design application. The reason for this is that companies continually develop their own new concepts and products, and do not want to be accused of taking someone else’s idea.
Want more articles like this? Check out the innovation section.
LL: What if we want to protect early stage ideas that we wish to discuss with clients, contractors or potential investors?
DA: In this case you should speak to a lawyer who specialises in confidential information and/or copyright law. They may suggest drawing up a confidentiality agreement for the other party to sign.
In regard to contractors and consultants, generally speaking, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the consultant or contractor will own rights that have arisen as a result of their contribution. So, you could find that even though you paid a consultant or contractor to develop a new concept, product or method for you, that they may own the copyright, or the rights in any patent or design application that may be filed. Therefore, it’s essential that a signed agreement is in place before any work begins.
It’s also important that the work they do for you is done on a confidential basis, and that confidentiality clauses are included in any agreement with them. Indeed, any disclosure you make to a consultant, contractor or external party should be under a confidentiality agreement.
LL: Any final advice about protecting your ideas?
DA: There are a number of ways to protect ideas, and it’s always best to speak to an expert about what is right for your individual circumstances. We deal specifically with trade mark, patent and industrial design matters, and these can help to protect your intellectual property.
LL: Thanks David!
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