The most valuable assets for nearly every business is the business’s intellectual property (IP). If you have unique intellectual property, then it is an asset that you need to protect so that you have something valuable and unique to sell in the future.
The policy debate* within the Australian government has sought to target innovation but to also to resolve the conflict between supporting innovation and promoting economic growth. On one hand, creative ideas need to be protected to support the innovation so that the creator is rewarded for their innovation but too much protection can stifle competition and economic growth. Recently IP Australia, in its 2017 report** noted that there has been a decline in the amount of applications to register intellectual property in Australia. According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics,*** there were 2,171,544 trading businesses operating in Australia on 30 June 2016 being an increase of 2.4 per cent from June 2015. Of those businesses in June 2015, it is estimated**** that only 27.3 per cent had some sort of intellectual property protection.
Protect your trademark
All businesses will have a trademark that is unique to their business. A trademark is how people identify your business in a highly competitive world. While you can prevent another business owner from using your design if it similar to yours it may be the case that someone in another city or area of Australia uses a similar trademark and may stop you from using your trademark. To protect your business, you need to register that trademark with IP Australia. Registration gives you protection for 10 years so that no one else can use the trademark in Australia without your permission. You can also register your trademark overseas.
Your unique way of doing what you do
With so many businesses competing for attention, a lot of focus is put on business owners being innovative and coming up with new ways of doing business. If your process or the way that you make your product is truly unique, you can apply to register a patent. A patent gives you protection from other people stealing your unique process for 20 years. These applications are complicated but if done correctly can protect your innovation for that period of time.
Protect your assets
In business, we are constantly creating new ideas and innovating in different ways. One of the issues with innovation is that sometimes you may fail, that is a normal part of the process. If you fail, you may expose your business or other assets to attack if you owe money to a third party. Therefore, it is important that throughout the innovation process that you consider and take advice on protecting your assets through different entities. This is an area that you need advice from a lawyer who knows your complete position and can protect your interests. This is not the time to take advice from family or friends as while the advice is well intentioned it is not specific to your needs and could back fire.
Protecting intellectual property is important for all businesses. It can be a costly process and you need to look at the costs of protection as against the risk that you have for something going wrong. Obtaining advice from a lawyer that knows this area is critical to ensure that you protect the thing that you create in the best way.
*** http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/8165.0
**** http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Latestproducts/8158.0Main%20Features82014-15?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=8158.0&issue=2014-15&num=&view=
Jeremy Streten, author of the “The Business Legal Lifecycle”