IP and Trademark — why they’re important
IP rights and ownership can exist in many forms, but it basically gives you legal protection over your creations and brand.
You’ve spent years building up your business and its brand so that you stand out from the competition and offer your customers a unique point of difference.
But without Intellectual Property (IP) and Trademark protection, you could face the daunting prospect of your business’s name, logo, design and patents being copied without any legal recourse available to you.
Whether you’re a small or medium-sized business or just starting out, here’s what you need to know so you’re not left exposed:
What is Intellectual Property (IP) and a Trademark?
IP rights and ownership can exist in many forms, but their purpose is to give you legal protection over your creations and brand.
Some forms of IP include:
Some IP does not have to be registered with IP Australia and can be agreed upon in contractual arrangements.
Notably, registering a business registering a business name (ABN) or company name (ACN) does not grant any IP rights over the name. To protect a business name or company name that is part of the business brand, you will need to register a trademark with IP Australia.
For many businesses, your brand is an important part of your business identity.
Whether it's a reference to your logo, slogan or even a colour scheme, a common way to protect these distinctive elements of your business brand is by registering a trademark.
A registered trademark gives you the ability to assert or enforce an exclusive right against others who use marks that are similar to or exactly like the registered trademark of your business.
For businesses to have protection over their trademark, the trademark must be registered with IP Australia.
Copyright is an IP that is automatic and provides protection when an owner’s original expression of ideas or creative concepts are documented electronically or on paper. Copyright can be in the form of books, art, film, computer programs, drawings, music and broadcasts.
A design is a right that protects the overall visual appearance of a product, through its distinctive visual features that are different to others. This differs from trademarks as design does not give protection without a physical form and does not protect a brand name or logo.
To protect a design and to enforce a right over a design, it must be registered and certified with IP Australia.
Other forms of IP
IP can also be created and enforced by way of a contractual agreement, either in circumstances between businesses or between a business and an individual.
Some businesses when entering into a new contract or agreement may want to ensure that their IP is sufficiently protected and therefore either have a clause dedicated to IP or they may enter into an Intellectual Property Licence Agreement.
How long does it take?
If you think the provisions around IP and Trademark law are complex, you’re right.
The registration process for trademarks often takes six to 12 months.
You will also have to research whether you have a unique trademark that is capable of registration. Once an application to register a trademark is made, it could be subject to opposition from third parties or rejection from IP Australia.
But a great brand is a valuable asset to a business. Like any valuable asset a business owns, it needs to be fully protected.
Whatever the size of your business, you need to get on the front foot to protect your IP before others can swoop in.
Our Corporate and Commercial Legal Services team can assist with:
- Registering and lodging trademarks;
- Advising on IP infringements or disputes.
- Enforcing IP rights; and
- Transferring any IP rights as part of a contract or licence agreement.
Do you want to know more about IP and Trademark protection for your business? Get in touch on (08) 9365 7746 or via BusinessLawWA@cciwa.com.