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How to protect your IP when you have an online business

Regardless of the size of your online business, it is important that you protect your intellectual property ( I.P) as this can be the very thing that  differentiates you from your competitors .  Most business owners are not aware that registering a business, does not offer any protection to your Intellectual property whether it is your logo, patents, trademarks, designs or copyright.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science define intellectual property as “all creations of the mind or intellect that can be legally owned.’’ The different types of creations that can be protected are countless and can range from a logo design, (such McDonalds’ golden arches) to a new cross bred species of plant.  IP Australia is the Australian Government agency that administers intellectual property rights and legislation and you can find out more here . http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au

So how do you go about protecting your online business? First of all, it is key to Understand the different types of IP and the advantages of each one. Patents protect inventions, design registration protects their look. A registered trade mark protects brand names, logos, original sounds and scents, and even aspects of packaging. 


A registered trademark can protect your branding and logo on your website.  It can last forever, as long as you pay the applicable fees. Trademarks don’t have to be new or be a secret but they do have to distinguish your item from others. The trademark must be significantly different to others in the industry and can be an extremely valuable asset as it proves that you own your brand.


A registered design is similar to a patent but can last up to 20 years. Similarly to the way a patent protects the way that something works, a design protects the way something looks. In order to register a design it must be both distinctive and new.


Copyright will protect original creative works such as art, books, photographs and plays and can last for 70 years after the death of the creator.  Unlike trademarks, patents and copyrights,  it does not require registration as protection is automatic and free.


A patent is an exclusive right to commercialise or license your invention for up to 20 years.  In order to be eligible to apply for a patent, your invention must be new, ( must not have been created before) inventive (Inventive means that other professionals in the area of your invention would not have found it to be an obvious thing to do ) and useful ( it must actually perform a function)

Also note that you need to apply for a patent in each country you wish to trade..

In addition, when it comes to your intellectual property,  always remember to keep your idea a secret, so no promoting or disclosing your idea on social media!  If you do need to involve other people, ensure they sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement.


About the author

Katherine new picWith over 20 years’ legal and business experience, Katherine Hawes is the founder and principle solicitor of Aquarius Lawyers.  To find out more about her fixed rate small business packages, please see www.newagelegalsolutions.com.au or phone 02 9615 9635.


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Katherine Hawes

Katherine Hawes

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