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Intellectual property: What it Means and Why You Should Protect It


Intellectual property, or IP, is a term frequently mentioned in the startup ecosystem. It is often referred to as the most important asset in a new business venture, but what is it? And why is it worth protecting? 

Intellectual property refers to intangible assets, and is often the currency of startups. It describes the idea or creation at the core of your startup venture, and is afforded the same protective rights as physical property. Your startup’s intellectual property can represent a gap in the market or a competitive advantage, which is vital when growing your business. Due to the inherent value of intellectual property – particularly in today’s digital and knowledge-based economy – businesses should be careful to protect it. There are many ways your startup can legally protect your intellectual property rights. This article will discuss some of the most common.   

Copyright

Copyright can provide a startup with the exclusive right to use or duplicate their design or material. Common works that can be protected by copyright include magazines, books, artwork, film or music. Depending on the asset, the term of copyright protection typically lasts the length of the author’s life, plus 70 years. 

Patents

Patents refer to the right to an invention. This can include new products, processes and substances. In Australia there are two types of patents – the standard patent and innovation patent. 

Standard patent:

  • The invention involved must be new or innovative
  • Lasts for up to 20 years.

Innovation patent:

  • Can be acquired when a startup has produced a short-term invention, which may be succeeded by a newer product
  • Lasts for up to eight years. 

Trade secrets

This is a startup’s proprietary knowledge which can comprise of processes, designs and secret formulas that are valuable due to their exclusivity. Startups can protect their trade secrets by ensuring employees, contractors, and other parties that will be exposed to the trade secrets agree to maintain confidentiality.   

Trademarks

A trademark can be a symbol, logo or phrase which distinguishes your startup. A trademark is also a valuable tool for marketing your startup, as it is what visually separates you from your competitors. To ensure your trademark remains exclusive to your startup, you will need to submit a trademark application.  

Circuit layouts

This is used to protect your computer designs, inclusive of computer chips and computer circuit layouts. This form of intellectual property is complex and requires unique copyright protection. 

Plant breeder’s right (PBR)

If you discover a new plant variation, you can be granted the exclusive rights to its production and sale. 

Understand your IP

When your startup’s intellectual property is legally owned, it’s protected from outside use. Intellectual property laws protect your asset from being reproduced or replicated by competitors, limiting competition for set periods.

It is important that a startup’s intellectual property stays confidential, and that founders refrain from publicising any information relating to it until it is legally protected. The earlier your startup develops a strategy to protect your intellectual property the better, as not doing so can be costly. To find out how to protect your startups intellectual property call our team on 03 8691 3111, or send us an email at hello@alliedlegal.com.au 

You might also like our article Growing your Startup- building your client base  

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