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- Make sure your IP protection extends to your export destination
- Use a Confidentiality Agreement when discussing ideas and preparing samples with overseas partners
The protection of intellectual property (IP) rights is a critical area commonly overlooked by Australian exporters. Intellectual property does not only mean the product of your mind or intellect; in a business sense it covers all types of proprietary knowledge.
Protecting your intellectual property
Intellectual property is a valuable asset. There is no such thing as a ‘world patent’ and protection in other countries must be applied for. Enforcement can be costly and protracted. And in certain markets, copying is endemic despite theoretical legal protection.
Protection of intellectual property international is a calculated risk in exporting. Advice is available from IP Australia.
Do some initial research into the situation in your chosen overseas market(s). Our Protect your business name or idea section explains what's the differences between patents, trademarks and designs.
You will need to balance your business strategies in your chosen market(s) against the costs of applying for patents, or registering trade marks or designs.
Meanwhile, be careful when providing samples, seeking partners and publishing detailed product information. Insist on confidentiality agreements and obtain sound legal advice when providing know-how and technical information. INNOVIC has a Confidentiality Agreement template that you can use.
IP Australia can also help you locate a professional or go to the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia (IPTA).
International IP protection
Protection of IP in overseas markets may be more complex than it is in Australia, because it will depend on each country's laws and conventions. This may be a long and costly process, particularly if applications must be submitted in foreign languages.
However, these issues can be mitigated:
- Insist on confidentiality agreements when providing any kind of know-how and technical information, whether it is covered by patents or not.
- Provide only basic information about products and services until you have established sound, long-term relationships with overseas partners. Remember the "need-to-know" principle.
- Maximise your sales (and profits) quickly before competitors have had an opportunity to copy your product or service.