Intellectual Property (IP)

IP rights are legal rights that protect the output of intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields, such as inventions, works of art and literature and product designs. In addition, IP rights include trade marks used in association with products and services to distinguish them from similar products and services from other sources. The economic logic behind protecting IP rights is to promote innovation and new investment in ideas by giving inventors and entrepreneurs exclusive commercial control over their work.

Internationally, the effective protection and enforcement of IP rights is regarded as essential to ongoing economic growth and development. IP is protected by a complex array of laws and institutions on a country by country basis as well as bilateral and multilateral treaties and conventions between countries. Of the legally recognised categories of IP rights, some require registration, including patents, trade marks, industrial designs and plant breeders’ rights. These rights must be registered with the prescribed IP authority in order for the owner to have the benefit of the protection offered under the applicable IP legislation.

Other IP rights that do not require registration include copyright, trade secrets, confidential information and integrated circuit layouts. In the case of copyright and integrated circuit layouts, these rights are deemed to exist at the time the underlying IP is created and are protected by statute. Trade secrets and confidential information are usually protected by contractual arrangements or under common law.


Patents are a registrable form of IP which protect new or improved products, methods or processes by granting the patent owner a temporary monopoly right to exclude others from exploiting an invention. In Australia and internationally, the scope of patentable subject matter is broad.


Trade marks are words, logos, phrases, sounds, smells, shapes or aspects of packaging used to identify the commercial source or origin of goods or services.

Trade marks allow businesses to differentiate themselves and their goods and services in the market.


Registered designs protect the visual elements of manufactured or hand crafted products intended for commercial or industrial use.  The aesthetic or visual elements which can be protected include the shape, pattern, configuration or ornamentation applied to a product.


Other forms of registrable IP include plant breeders’ rights, business and domain names and geographical indications.  IP protected under statute but for which there is no statutory registration system include copyright and circuit design layouts. Other forms include trade secrets and confidential information.