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Alternatives to patents

By CCIWA Editor 

There are alternatives to patents that might be a better fit for your business. These options, which are not just restricted to other types of intellectual property, include: 

  • trademarks (which protects the name of a product or service)   
  • design rights (which protects the look of a product) 
  • first to market (where the owner wants to beat potential competitors to market) 
  • trade secrets (an option if you want other parties to help manufacture and market your product).  

Design right 

If your invention has a unique shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation, it’s worth considering a design right. While a patent protects the way an invention works, a registered design is more appropriate if the appearance of a product is important and innovative. 

First to market 

If an invention is destined to have a short commercial life and be in a competitive market, the inventor may seek to be first to market and try and gain major market share. This element of surprise means competitors will have a long lead time before they can get a similar product to market.   

Trademarks 

A trademark is a unique identifier for the name of a product or service. A registered trademark cannot be used for another good or service that sits within the same class of goods and services.  

This option is good in situations where the product has a short commercial life and the owner wants to quickly establish a market lead.

In this case, a trade mark protects the name and reputation of that product (think GoPro). 

Trade secrets 

A trade secret can be sustained through confidentiality agreements (or non-disclosure agreements).  According to Federal Government agency IP Australia, this approach is only worthwhile if it’s difficult for others to work out how an invention has been manufactured. A well-kept trade secret is the formula for Coca-Cola. 

A trade secret lasts for a long as the information remains confidential. This type of agreement would be used, for example, if you needed staff or other businesses to help manufacture your invention in secrecy.   

There are alternatives to patents that might be a better fit for your business. These options, which are not just restricted to other types of intellectual property, include: 

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