1. Without intellectual property protection, your ideas may be copied by others
Economists tell us that copying is good for the economy because it leads to increased competition in the marketplace and to lower prices for consumers. Whilst copying may be good for the economy, itís not good for inventors to have their ideas taken and prices driven down before they have an opportunity to make a profit.
2. There are different types of intellectual property protection
The owner of a patent has the right to stop others making, using and/or selling (etc) the invention covered by the patent. The invention could be product and/or a method. Standard patents last for up to 20 years. Many countries have shorter term patents intended to cover Ďlesserí inventions. The Australian innovation patent lasts for up to eight years.
The owner of a design registration (AKA design patent) has the right to stop others making, using and/or selling (etc) products covered by the registration. Australian design registrations last for up to 10 years and cover the appearance of a product. Design registrations cannot be used stop competitors making, using and/or selling products that look different to the registered design, even if the competitorís product incorporates copied functional features.
Trade marks can be registered in relation to selected goods and/or services. The owner of a trade mark registration has the right to stop others using the registered trade mark as a trade mark in relation to the selected goods and/or services. A trade mark is sign, such as a name and/or a logo, that can be used to give a purchaser an indication of the origin of the goods and/or services.
Chain Rammer Patent - via Wikimedia Commons
3. Itís important to keep the idea secret
General speaking, an invention and design must be kept secret until a patent application and/or a design application has been filed, if patent or design protection is of interest. If not, your patent or design protection could be ruled invalid.
Australia, the US and Canada have grace periods for applying for patent protection. These are best viewed as fall-back options that may allow you to salvage the situation if youíve failed to keep the secret.
4. Intellectual property protection isnít enough
Patent, design and trade mark protection should be part of a broader business plan. IP protection by itself will not lead to revenue. Typically, itís a long road from a good idea, even a good patented idea, to a profitable business.
Turning a good idea into profit will likely involve finding a manufacturer, establishing distribution channels and marketing. All of this will take time, money and hard work. Itís important to budget for this before starting on a project that you canít afford to follow through. Even if you plan to sell your idea, say selling your patent application at an early stage, finding a buyer isnít as easy as it sounds.
5. A good adviser can make all the difference
Any attempt to navigate the intellectual property system without the aid of an experienced professional adviser is unlikely to be successful. Talk to a number of advisers before settling on one.
Typically, IP advisers are highly specialised. One patent attorney may focus on mechanical inventions whilst another specialises in organic chemistry. If patent protection is of interest, itís important to find a patent attorney with a background that matches your invention.
Indeed, it may well be appropriate to settle on more than one adviser. In the past, most patent attorneys were also trade marks attorneys. This is no longer true. So if trade mark protection is of interest, that may well require a different adviser with a different set of skills.