If you have a small business, it is only natural to provide security in all your physical assets. You lock the doors and close all the windows after business hours, you put your money in a safe, you put passwords to your equipment and many more. You are wired to prevent others from getting their hands into your belongings. But what about your non-physical, untouchable properties? How do you protect them from anyone who might get them?
Try to think about the first time you thought about putting up your business. Your brain first creates a mental image of every detail of what your business is going to be. When you put these ideas into reality and actually use them in your business, they become your intellectual properties. Intellectual properties are very essential in small businesses and they, too, need security. How?
Australia has Intellectual Property Law, which is designed to protect all intellectual properties concerning businesses. As you read on, you are going to learn more about intellectual properties, how to protect them and how the law benefits your small business.
What Are Intellectual Properties?
In simple terms, intellectual properties (IPs) are properties of your brain. They are formed when you create something out of the ideas inside your mind and use them for commercial purposes, such as businesses. Everything about your business that comes from your mind or brain is your intellectual properties.
Some of the intellectual properties a small business may have are:
- own brand
- original design
- exclusive invention
- secret ingredient or recipe
- distinction from competitors
What Is Intellectual Property Law in Australia?
Australia’s Intellectual Property Law aims to encourage people to create, innovate and develop new things, as well as to protect these IPs, in order to give small and medium enterprises (SMEs) competitive advantages in the market. It consists of several protection rights that legally enables the IP owners to have exclusive rights to utilise their creation in any way they want.
Intellectual Properties Australia (IP Australia) is the Australian government agency responsible for the development of the IP Law in Australia.
What Are the Types of Intellectual Properties and How IP Law Protects Them?
Some of the important intellectual properties that are protected under the IP Law are:
A trademark is a word, phrase or symbol for your business. What makes it different from a brand is that the trademark is legally protected by law and the brand is not.
Registered trademarks are protected by Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth), stating the Common Law Rights. Unregistered trademarks, on the other hand, are only protected by Common Law Rights.
New inventions and creations need patents so that the inventor will be acknowledged as the first to create the product and be given legal rights to manufacture these inventions. Patents are controlled by IP Australia and protected from possible copycats who will try to manufacture the product. The protection rights for patents are stated in Patent Acts 1990 (Cth).
Original creators of arts, music and written or literary works can apply copyright for their works. Australia does not require the owner to register their works in order to be protected under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Unlike other IPs, copyrights are administered by the Department of Communications and the Arts.
The rights to designs are protected under the Designs Act 2003 (Cth). It defines design as the overall look of the product as dictated by one or more distinct visual features.
The Design Act 2003 (Cth) only covers the visual features of the product, such as the shape, colour, pattern and decoration, and not the texture, function and material used. It also protects only the registered designs.
5. Plant Breeders Right
Plant breeders can protect their success in developing new plant varieties through the Plant Breeders Rights Act 1994 (Cth).
6. Circuit Layouts Rights
A circuit layout pertains to a 3D pattern and location of interconnected elements that creates an integrated circuit. Like the design, the Circuit Layouts Act 1989 (Cth) is under the Department of Communications and the Arts.
7. Domain Name
A domain name is your Internet address. It allows people to access the site leading to your webpage. All domains ending in .au are registered in Australia and managed by the .au Domain Administration (auDA). To ensure that only you use your Internet address, you must register your domain name.
What Happens if I Fail to Follow the Intellectual Property Law?
If you fail to legally register or acknowledge your intellectual properties, then you do not have the rights to these properties. This means your IPs are not protected by the law and because of that, other people and businesses are free to exploit any of your ideas to their benefit.
On the other hand, if you happen to use other’s registered and protected IPs, intentional or not, you are subject to infringement, and it is punishable by law. The same thing goes when someone else utilises your registered IPs. You can sue them or have them pay for infringing your IPs.
What Benefits Does Intellectual Property Law Give My Small Business?
The IP Law can benefit your small business in many ways, and it can be summed up into three points:
- Protection – The main goal of the IP Law is to provide protection to IPs. Your small business contains a number of IPs. Therefore, by protecting your IPS, the IP Law also protects your business as a whole.
- Advantage against competitors – Another goal of IP Law is to encourage innovation. IP Law lets you have the freedom to continuously develop new things for your business. You may create competitive things that will give you more advantage against your competitors.
- Responsibility – Through the IP Law, business owners become responsible in registering their businesses and the IPs that come with it. They also become more responsible in searching for registered IPs that they should avoid using for their businesses.
The Intellectual Property Law in Australia allows people to identify the intellectual properties in their businesses, how to protect these IPs and how they can benefit from it. Understanding IP Law lets business owners become more responsible, competitive and protected against third party infringement.