IP 101 For Start-ups

We know that start-ups are abuzz with creativity and innovation, but are often juggling the demands of raising finances, finding good talent and securing customers. Specifically, if you have the “build fast, fail fast” mentality, that many of us practice, thinking about intellectual property (IP) management can often seem like a waste of precious time and money. However, finding ways to protect your IP is one of the best investments you can make in the long run, even with financial and time pressures.

There’s a lot more to learn about as you consider registering IP rights for your business, invention or product so we thought we’d get you started with our startups top tips:


5 quick tips for start-ups

Don’t leave thinking about your IP needs until you’re ready to open the doors. You should be considering IP from your first business canvas as you are working out initial costs and ongoing needs. Get started with the understanding IP section on the IP Australia website.

Trade marks and business names:
A trademark and a business name are two different things. Registering your business name with ASIC doesn’t give you full rights over the use of that name. Find out the difference between the two and why you should consider registering your brand as a trade mark.

Protect what you own:
IP rights are great on paper, but you must act like you own the right or you may lose it. If you aren’t using your trademark another business can make a case for your right to be revoked. It’s also up to you to monitor the use of your rights. If you see another business using your trademark for example, you should seek legal advice to enforce your rights. You can find out more about IP infringements here.

Publicity traps:
If you are a start-up that requires patents you need to be careful. Imagine you’ve finally had that breakthrough and your invention works. It may be difficult, but don’t jump up and shout about it from the roof-top, in fact, don’t even tell your mum! If you demonstrate, sell or discuss your invention publicly before you file a patent application, you may not be able to get that patent. If you want to discuss it with employees, manufacturing agents or designers, get them to sign a confidentiality agreement first.

IP protection is for everyone:
IP protection is not just for business, it’s for anyone with a new invention, business design, or new plant variety. It helps you protect your interests and it gives you a great bargaining chip when seeking investment in your idea or business. Visit the IP Australia website to learn more.


Now…what is IP?

Intellectual Property (IP)
can be an invention, a brand, or an original work of art and IP rights like Patents, Trade Marks and Design Rights offer exclusive legal ownership over these assets. This means they can be bought, sold or licensed. It is important to note that some IP doesn’t require registration. You don’t need to register your copyright interests – copyright is granted from the time an original work is created. You can find out more from the Australian Copyright Council. Other protection comes in the form of legal documents or agreements such confidentiality agreements to maintain your business’ trade secrets. We’ve summarised a few types of registrable IP, stick with us…


Different types of registrable IP

One of the main ways to protect an invention is with a patent: a right granted for any device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful. IP Australia examines patent applications, which aim to protect inventions in Australia. Eg. KeepCup

Trade marks:
A trademark is the identity of your business. It is used to distinguish the goods and services of one trader from those of another and can be in the form of a number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, aspects of packaging or a combination of these. Eg. VinoMofo or Boost Juice.

Registered designs protect the form and visual appearance of a product such as a shape, pattern or configuration. Note: This is different to a patent which protects the mechanics of how a product works. Eg. The Albion cricket helmet


If you’re looking to find more information about each type of IP right, search for existing rights, or even apply to register a right, head to the IP Australia Website. Take some time to read more, learn from the experiences of other businesses and figure out why IP really matters and how it can best work for you.