Intellectual Property: Trademarks, copyright, patents and registered designs

Intellectual property law covers a number of different rights. Whether you are in art, science, industry, business or a combination thereof, it is important to understand the different types of intellectual property protection available.

The following outlines the most common types of intellectual property protection available.

Trade mark

A trade mark is defined under the Trade Marks Act 1995 as: ‘a sign used, or intended to be used, to distinguish goods or services dealt with or provided in the course of trade by a person from goods or services so dealt with or provided by any other person.’

Typically businesses apply for trademarks to protect their logos, slogans, and product and businesses names from infringement. It is strongly advisable to register a trade mark through IP Australia to gain protection, otherwise you will have to rely upon the more difficult to prosecute action of passing-off.

A registered business name is not a type of intellectual property and offers very limited protection of that name.


Copyright is a protection afforded to the expression of ideas by the Copyright Act 1968. Typically copyright covers writing, sound and images but can include computer programs and performance.

There is no requirement to register your copyright and unless it is agreed otherwise copyright is owned by the author.

There are exceptions to copyright infringement which can be found in the Copyright Act 1968.


A Patent is a legal right to sole commercial use (often called a monopoly) over an idea or invention. There are two types of patent:

  1. Standard Patent: The invention or idea must be new, involve an inventive step and be able to be made or used in an industry. This patent comes with 25 years of protection.
  2. Innovation Patent: Similar to a standard patent but instead of requiring an inventive step it only requires an innovative step. This patent type is typically easier and cheaper to obtain than a standard patent but only protects an invention for 8 years.

One of the most common mistakes in patent registration is “going public” before applying – you cannot sell, advertise or publicly demonstrate the idea before applying.

Patents are governed by The Patents Act 1990 (Cth).

Registered Design

A registered design relates to commercial products with unique visual features. A design is defined under The Designs Act 2003 (Cth) as: ‘The overall appearance of the product resulting from one or more visual features of the product.’

Examples of products which a design might be registered for include clothes, furniture and for instance the “Iphone” which Apple has protected the visual design elements of. A design is not the pattern, shape or artwork itself but how it is the product as a whole incorporating the visual feature(s).

The initial term of protection for a design is 5 years but with rights of renewal.

Contact Tasman at Hume Taylor & Co in Adelaide to assist you in protecting your intellectual property.

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