Strategies to Protect Your Intellectual Property

Once you have identified your intellectual property you should develop strategies to protect your rights so that you don't put your business at risk.

Imagine if your competition discovered your secret and started replicating it, or you told someone your idea and then discovered too late that you had lost the legal right to make it exclusively yours.

The key is not to talk about your idea or make your IP public knowledge before you've had a chance to protect it.

Intellectual property (IP) can be bought, owned, sold, licensed out or bequeathed in much the same way as a building or a block of land. IP can be so valuable that many businesses list it among their assets on their balance sheet.

It's important to develop effective strategies to protect you IP within your business, not only to protect valuable assets but also to safeguard the products, processes and creative inputs from which the profits of the business emanate.

Step 1: Register your IP

The first step of any protection strategy is to register your IP.

There are seven types of IP protection available to you:

Different IP rights vary in the protection they provide and in many cases more than one type may be necessary to fully protect your creation.

You can patent your IP through a patent attorney and/or an intellectual property lawyer, either of whom will take your current model and appropriately describe it in minute detail to distinguish it from any other similar products. Go to Hiring a Lawyer for more information about how to hire a patent or IP lawyer.

Step 2: Act to keep it secret and demonstrate ownership

The second step in a protection strategy is to take the necessary actions to keep your idea a secret and demonstrate your ownership of the idea. Consider some of the following steps to protect your idea:

Keep your idea a secret

  • Contact only those people who can assist you with planning your product development.
  • Before you discuss your idea with anyone make sure you have a signed confidentiality agreement or a non-disclosure agreement in place, which describes the object/idea along with details about yourself and the person to whom you will disclose these details.
  • The agreement must be signed in your presence and preferably witnessed - and more importantly - it must be dated to establish the time, date and place of disclosure.

Demonstrate that the idea is yours

  • Write down in detail what your idea is; what it does and how it works.
  • Draw a detailed picture of the object or take a photograph of the prototype.
  • Make copies and put the original documents in a sealed, self addressed envelope and mail the envelope by registered mail. When you receive the envelope DO NOT open it. Put it in a safe place.
  • This establishes evidence of the time date and place of original thought.

Make sure you're not infringing anyone else's IP

  • Search the IP Australia website to find out if there are products of the same type and application as yours. This will save you time and money in your application for IP protection.
  • Many types of protection aren't available if your idea is similar to one that is already covered by a patent, trade mark or the like.

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