Intellectual property (IP) is the property of your mind or exclusive knowledge. If you develop a new product, service, process or idea it belongs to you and is considered your IP.

IP rights provide IP owners with the time and opportunity to commercialise their creations.

Types of IP rights

There are a number of IP protection rights suited to the different types of IP. The most common types of IP rights are:

Identifying your IP assets

Your IP is one of the key assets to your business. An audit of your business name, brand and products and services will help you to identify what IP you could protect in the future.

Conducting an asset register will clarify who owns the IP, its value and how important it is to the success of your business.

When you identify, monitor and value your assets make sure you think about:

  • the products or services that are key to your business
  • your legal rights in relation to your products or services
  • the market advantages your rights can give you.

Protecting your IP

It’s important to understand how to protect your IP. Some forms of IP right such as a trade mark, design, patent or plant breeder’s right are registered rights and need formal application and examination before you can claim a right to ownership. Other forms of IP protection such as copyright do not need to be registered.

Protecting your IP overseas

Registered IP rights need to be sought in each country. This means your registered Australian trade mark, design, plant breeder’s right, or patent does not protect your IP in other countries.

If you operate all or parts of your business overseas, you should consider registering IP rights with the country you are doing business with. Doing this will:

  • ensure you don't infringe on existing IP rights
  • exclude other businesses from making, using, selling or importing your product or service
  • help you gain entry into a market overseas.

Check if your IP is available overseas

If you want to operate your business overseas, you'll need to research the IP records of the country you want to do business with. This will determine whether any existing IP rights exists. If there's already a trade mark of the same type, name and class in a country, then you may have problems entering that market.

Register your IP overseas

If you want IP protection in other countries you either need to:


Infringing another IP right

While it's important to protect your IP, it is equally important that you don't infringe the IP ownership of others. Using someone's trade mark, patent, copyright, plant breeder’s right or design without their permission is known as IP infringement and can become costly.

Someone infringing on your IP

Your IP rights may be infringed when your work, protected by IP laws, is used, copied or mistreated without your permission.

To take legal action, you'll need to prove that:

  • the infringer has copied whole or part of your work
  • your IP rights exist
  • the infringer did not have permission or consent to copy your work.

IP legal matters can be complex and you should seek the advice of a legal IP professional within the associated country.

Resolving IP disputes

If you think someone is infringing on your IP or have an IP dispute, consider a qualified mediation provider.

Resources to help your business

Australian IP Toolkit for Collaboration

The IP toolkit helps researchers and business in collaboration project understand IP. It provides a number of resources including:

  • a checklist covering the key issues that need to be considered
  • templates for contracts, confidentiality agreements and term sheet
  • guidance and information to help collaborating parties manage their IP.

Higher Education Research Commercialisation Intellectual Property Framework

The Higher Education Research Commercialisation (HERC) Intellectual Property (IP) Framework (the Framework) helps businesses to work with universities on research and commercial projects.

The Framework helps businesses by providing: 

  • step-by-step information to help you learn more about IP in university-industry collaborative research 
  • standardised agreement templates to assist in the negotiation process.

Case studies

Not sure how IP relates to your business? There are a number of examples of how other Australian businesses have dealt with their IP.

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