What is IP?
Read on for a quick Q&A on the basics of IP protection.
IP … Intellectual Property … is the general term used to refer to ‘creations of the mind’, such as inventions, creative works, names and symbols, etc.
IP can be protected by law, including by Patent, Design and Trade Mark law.
IP laws seek to strike a balance between allowing people to earn recognition and financial benefit for the creation of these ideas, and, the wider public interest in benefiting from such innovations.
Why should I protect my IP?
This may also assist in providing a defensive mechanism against an infringement claim from others.
IP rights can also attract or cement funding opportunities from investors, and, is often a criteria for you to obtain government grants.
When should I protect my idea?
You should file any Patent or Design applications before any use of your product or disclosure of your invention.
Basically, it is a ‘race’ to the Patent Office … the ‘first’ to file a Patent application for an invention ‘wins’.
There is a ‘grace period’ in Australia and the US …so, if you have used your invention in the last 12 months, there may still be hope of getting patent protection.
What happens if I modify my product?
As you evolve your ideas and products, you should re-evaluate each new feature as a possibility for Patent protection…a series of ‘Provisional’ Patent Applications may be filed in the first year and then cognated together into a single ‘Standard’ Patent Application.
When can I tell people about my invention?
Once you have filed your Patent / Design applications, you can publically disclose your invention, and release your product on the market.
As Patents typically take some years to be examined, don’t wait for your Patent to be granted before you commence sale or use of your product.
Should I file a Patent or a Design application?
A Patent protects the way in which a product works…its ‘functionality’.
Patents are the strongest form of protection, as they provide you the exclusive rights to prevent others from producing a product that works the same way.
A Design protects the appearance of a product…its ‘looks’.
If your product works in the same way as another product, but looks different, then Design protection may still be obtainable.
An Innovation Patent is also obtainable in Australia, which is ‘easier’ to obtain than a ‘Standard’ Patent. It has a lower ‘innovative step’ threshold than the ‘inventive step’ requirement of a Standard Patent. It also has a shorter 8 year term than the 20 year term of a Standard Patent. In many cases, an Innovation Patent is a very worthwhile form of protection.
Should I file a Trade Mark application?
Whilst Patents and Designs are generally the most valuable asset to any Startup, and require the most urgent attention to initially protect, building a ‘brand’ also needs to be considered.
A Trade Mark protects a name, symbol, logo, etc.
A Trade Mark application can be filed before or after you use your Trade Mark, but, it is best filed asap to minimize your risks.
You should have a Trade Mark ‘clearance search’ done before using your Trade Mark, to ensure there are no ‘conflicts’ with competitor brands which may stop use of your Trade Mark.
A Trade Mark can be renewed forever, as long as you keep using it … so it can provide protection long after your Patents/ Designs expire.