There’s been plenty of talk in the media about theft of intellectual property. China, most recently, has been accused by the United States of copying their innovations as it pushes ahead with technological advancement to become what it calls “an innovation nation” by 2020.
But it’s not just China. All over the world, there are investors, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and start ups, that are keen to take a short cut to success by copying someone else’s identity or idea.
In Australia, our own internationally renowned scientists Professors Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou, had to battle it out to retain the intellectual property rights for Gardasil (the vaccine which is expected to help eliminate human papillomavirus globally in the near future). The duo took out a provisional patent on their research in early 1991 before speaking about it at a conference in the United States three days later. Soon after, a competitor filed a patent in the United States for similar research. Eventually, Frazer and Zhou won the case because their patent application contained so much detail.
Similarly, Cadbury had to fight to protect its intellectual property – this time for the particular shade of purple (pantone 2685C) used for its packaging over 100 years. When challenged by a competitor, Cadbury successfully took the case to court. They won because they could prove that in the public eye, pantone 2685C had become synonymous with the brand.
From your business name and logo, to the unique software you’ve written, the process you’ve developed to manufacture or grow a product, or the secret recipe you’ve created to achieve the perfect blend of scent, taste, texture and colour… whatever it is, if it’s good, it’s worth protecting.
There are several ways to do this: patents can help safeguard inventions, registered trade marks will protect your brand names, logos, original sounds, scents and packaging, colours or combinations of colours; and design registration can help protect the look and feel of your product.
If you haven’t patented your innovation, but you need to discuss it with potential investors or manufacturers, be sure to obtain a confidentiality agreement before proceeding.
The Flip Side
Carefully consider whether or not you want to patent an innovation before your exhibit or demonstrate how it works – previously exhibited or used inventions may not be successful in their patent application.
It’s also important to realise that your patent application will necessitate detailing the specifics of your product’s make up, and this information will become available to your competitors. If your innovation can’t be reverse engineered, you might, like KFC and Coke, be better off keeping your idea a trade secret instead of disclosing the recipe.
Before you go down the path of formally protecting your intellectual property, be sure to carefully research what’s already protected in case you’ve inadvertently copied an existing idea.
You can find out more about protecting your intellectual property at www.ipaustralia.gov.au. And, if you’re looking for assistance to finance and develop a new idea, contact Ayers Group – our consultants can support you with administrative services and connect you with experts in the field.
For more information:
Trade marks, visit Australian trade mark search,
Patents, visit Australian patent search,
Designs, visit Australian designs search, and
PBR, visit Australian plant breeder’s rights search.
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