On this page
- Intellectual property (IP) explained
- Options for protecting your IP
- Get the right IP protection
Registering a business name does not give you proprietary rights for the use of the trading name. If you register a business, company or domain name, you do not automatically have the right to use that name as a trade mark. You should know the difference between trade marks, business and domain names. To take legal action against illegal users, you need to register the name as a trade mark.
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property (IP) refers to new or original creations of the mind such as inventions, words, phrases, symbols, designs, and ideas. These creations can have a commercial value for your business, so it's important you understand how to protect it.
The five major methods of protecting your IP are:
- trade marks
- design rights
- domain names.
A trade mark is a right that is granted over a word, phrase, letter, number, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture or packaging your business uses to represent its products and services. It's used to distinguish your goods or services from your competitors.
Registering a trade mark gives you exclusive rights to:
- use the trade mark across the Commonwealth of Australia
- use the trade mark for commercial purposes
- assign, transfer or sell the rights to the trade mark to another business
- protect the trade mark if others try to use it.
Protect your trade mark
Search IP Australia's ATMOSS database to see if the trade mark you want to use is available.
If you buy a business that already has trade mark or registered design, you'll need to transfer these into your name. IP Australia (Intellectual Property Australia), or a patent lawyer can help you do this.
Apply for a trade mark online at IP Australia.
A patent is a right granted for any device, substance, method or process, which is new, inventive and useful.
A patent will:
- stop others from manufacturing, using and/or selling your invention in Australia without your permission
- let you licence someone else to manufacture your invention
- gives you exclusive right to exploit the invention for the life of the patent.
Protect your patent
Search IP Australia's AusPat database to see if your invention already exists.
Apply for a patent online at IP Australia.
Copyright protection is free and automatic. It provides the legal protection for the original expression of ideas, not to the ideas themselves. Unlike patents and trade marks, copyrights don't have to be registered for the ownership of a work to be asserted and protection received.
Copyright protects original works such as art, literature, music, films, sound recording, broadcasts, computer programs and databases. More information can be found via the Australian Copyright Council.
A design is the appearance of a product that gives it a unique visual style. It could be a logo, branding, packaging, new invention or new technology. A registered design gives you, the owner, exclusive rights to commercially use, licence or sell it.
Protect your design rights
Search IP Australia's Australian Designs Database (ADDS) to see if a similar design has already been registered.
Apply to register the design online at IP Australia
A domain name is your unique address on the internet. It will allow your clients or customers to find your business online.
It is good to register a domain name even if you do not have an actual website yet – this will help to ensure your domain address is available when or if you need it.
Read more about choosing and registering a domain name.
Case Study: How to protect your business with intellectual property
'I would make sure you have something of quality to protect, so think about using a professional graphic designer.'
— Seren Ozdemir, LS Design