Intellectual Property Law is an important consideration for businesses.

Intellectual property law refers to legislation governing intellectual property rights. Intellectual property is defined by IP Australia as representing the property of your mind or intellect. In business terms, this also means your proprietary knowledge. Here are the common types of intellectual property include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets in NSW.

Seeking advice from a specialist intellectual property lawyer is an important step to protecting your IP rights.


A patent is defined by IP Australia as a right granted for any device, substance, method or process, which is new, inventive and useful and will lead to material gain. Applications should be filed with IP Australia and once approved; an Australian standard patent lasts for 20 years. Legal advice should be sought to file a patent application both in Australia and an international patent application.


A trade mark is defined by IP Australia as a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, aspect of packaging or any combination of these. A registered trade mark gives you the exclusive legal right to use, license or sell it within Australia for the goods and services for which it is registered. Legal advice should be sought to do trade mark availability searches and register trademarks both in Australia and overseas.


A design is defined by IP Australia as the features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation which, when applied to a product, gives the product a unique appearance. Intellectual property law only refers to designs which have a commercial or industrial use and it can only be registered if it is a new and distinctive design. Legal advice should be sought for design searches and assessments, assessing the validity of the design registration and the design application.


Copyright is governed under the Copyright Act 1968 and IP Australia stipulates that it protects the original expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. Copyright is automatically assigned to original works of art and literature, music, films, sound recording, broadcasts and computer programs to protect the owner from unauthorised copying and other uses.

Circuit layout rights

The Attorney-General’s Department administers the legislation for automatic rights to circuit layout rights. IP Australia states that circuit layout rights automatically protect original layout designs for integrated circuits and computer chips. These rights are based on copyright principles but fall under a separate form of protection. There is no current requirement to register a circuit layout design.

Plant breeders’ rights

IP Australia says that plant breeders’ rights are used to protect new varieties of plants by giving exclusive commercial rights to market a new variety or its reproductive material. The breeder must produce evidence to demonstrate that it is a new and distinctive breed of plant and that is uniform and stable. Applications should be registered with IP Australia. Protection lasts for up to 25 years for trees or vines and 20 years for other species.

Confidentiality and trade secrets

A trade secret is defined by IP Australia as both a type of intellectual property and a strategy for protecting your intellectual property. A trade secret can be anything from a special recipe, construction, manufacturing process or formulation. The best way to protect your trade secret is to ask employees or those privy to the trade secret to sign confidentiality agreements.

With the exception of copyright and circuit layout rights, which are automatic, you must take formal steps to register your IP and obtain the legal rights of ownership. Intellectual property registration in Australia also does not give you international property rights. Please contact our intellectual property lawyers in Sydney during business hours on 1800 770 780 if you require advice or more information about intellectual property rights.

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