How to protect your business ideas
Key points in this article
- Documenting everything
- Protecting inventions
- Automatic copyright
It’s important to keep an original business idea under wraps as long as possible. An idea can be a business' most valuable asset. Whether it’s a business name, an original product or a portfolio of designs, your business will have intellectual property (IP) that needs to be protected.
Before applying for IP
Before you apply for intellectual property legally, consider some of the following solutions.
Wait before you make your ideas public
It’s not a wise idea to discuss, publish, sell or demonstrate your invention or design in public before filing a patent or design registration application. Make sure you have the right protection in place before telling the world about your great idea.
Use confidentiality agreements
Ask a lawyer to draw up a confidentiality agreement and ensure all staff, potential investors, and other parties of interest sign it before you disclose any confidential information.
Even if someone has signed a confidentiality agreement, it's still not prudent to give away too much specific information.
Be careful who you speak with
Before talking to another person about your idea, research their credentials thoroughly. Look on the Internet for information about their career and double check by speaking with a few of their previous clients or partners.
If you are ever drawn into a legal battle, it will help enormously if you have written and dated proof of everything relating to your ideas.
Make it a business-wide habit to have all paperwork documented twice, making use of the cloud
Have layers of information disclosure
Don’t hand over everything to any one person. Have a one-page outline that doesn’t reveal everything, then provide more information as you gain confidence in the person you’re talking to.
Although it costs money to protect your business ideas, it will be money well spent if it stops someone from taking them and profiting.
Protecting your business name
Registering a business or company name or registering the domain name doesn’t automatically give you the exclusive right to trade under that name throughout Australia.
However, if you register your business name as a trademark, no one else will be allowed to use it.
Registering a trademark
A trademark can be a:
- symbol or another mark that identifies your business or brand.
Find out if another business has already registered the same (or a similar) trademark to yours by searching the Australian Trade Mark Online Search System (ATMOSS).
Register your trademark with IP Australia to help prevent anyone else from using it.
Looking after your inventions
If your business has invented an innovative new product, process or substance, the last thing you want is for someone to launch it before you – claiming they invented it. A patent will protect your interests.
Before applying, search the Australian Patent Database (AusPat) to find out if someone else already has a similar patent.
Inventions need to be protected with patents before another smart business invents and protects the same innovation
Protecting your designs
If your business has produced a unique design that will be used either commercially or industrially, register your design with IP Australia to protect your interests in the design.
Before you register your design, ensure it’s not noticeably similar to any designs that have already been published either in Australia or another country.
If your business produces original films, music, artwork, software programs, books or other publications, they’ll be automatically protected by copyright under Australian copyright law.
Deter potential copiers by including a copyright notice on every piece of work you create.