What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property (IP) refers to new or original creations of the mind such as:

  • inventions
  • words
  • phrases
  • symbols
  • designs
  • ideas

It's important to protect these creations as they can have commercial value for your business.

How to protect your intellectual property

The 5 major methods of protecting your IP are:

  • trade marks
  • patents
  • design rights
  • domain names
  • copyright

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is a right that is granted over IP that your business uses to represent its products and services. For example, your business or company name, or a slogan. It's used to distinguish your goods or services from your competitors.

You can trademark a word, phrase, letter, number, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture or packaging.

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

Registered business names and registered trade marks

Registering a business or company name doesn't mean you own the name. To have a legal right over the name and be able to take legal action against illegal users of your name, you need to register it as a trade mark.

Learn more about the difference between a business name and a trade mark on business.gov.au

Protect your trade mark

  1. Search IP Australia's ATMOSS database to see if the trade mark you want to use is available.
  2. Apply for a new or existing trade mark online using Intellectual Property Australia Trade Mark Assist.

If you buy a business that already has trade mark or registered design, you'll need to transfer these into your name. IP Australia or a patent lawyer can help you do this.

What is a patent?

A patent is a right granted for any device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful.

A patent will:

  • stop others from manufacturing, using or selling your invention in Australia without your permission
  • let you license someone else to manufacture your invention
  • gives you exclusive right to exploit the invention for the life of the patent

Protect your patent

  1. eSearch IP Australia's AusPat database to see if your invention already exists.
  2. Apply for a patent online at IP Australia.

What are design rights?

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

  1. Search IP Australia's Australian Designs Database (ADDS) to see if a similar design has already been registered.
  2. Apply to register the design online at IP Australia.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is your unique address on the internet. It will allow your clients or customers to find your business online.

It's a good idea to register your domain name even if you don't have a website yet. This will ensure your domain address is available when or if you need it.

What is copyright?

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, you don't need to register a copyright for your ownership to be asserted and protection received.

Copyright protects original works such as:

  • art
  • literature
  • music
  • films
  • sound recording
  • broadcasts
  • computer programs
  • databases