What is intellectual property?

Intellectual Property is a collective term referring to legal rights that may exist in:

  • new products or processes that you create
  • names or logos you use to promote your business
  • original material you create, such as written documents, drawings and computer programs.

Types of intellectual property

There are several types of intellectual property.

Patents protect new or improved products, methods or processes. Examples could be a computer-controlled solar power system, a new wine production process or an improvement to a piece of agricultural equipment.

Trade marks are words, logos, phrases, sounds, smells, shapes, or aspects of packaging used to distinguish your goods and services from those of another. Well-known examples include Colorbond®, Roundup® and John Deere.®

Registered designs protect the new or original shape or appearance of goods that have a commercial or industrial use. Designs may be two dimensional, such as the decorative design applied to a fabric, or three dimensional, such as an irrigation fitting.

Copyright protects an original way of expressing an idea (such as in original literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works) as well as films, sound recordings and broadcasts. Examples include operating manuals and training materials. Software is also expressly protected by copyright.

Plant breeders’ rights protect new plant varieties, including genetically modified varieties. An example is a variety of disease-resistant wheat.

Confidential information is commercial information (including trade secrets, know-how and other proprietary information) not generally known to the public that can be protected from disclosure or misuse. Examples of information that may be protected as confidential information include customer lists, manufacturing data, chemical formulations and business plans.

Commercialising ideas and developing a business requires consideration of intellectual property laws. Download the guide below for some of the more important considerations.

Click to download the IP checklist guide.