10 intellectual property tips


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1. Treat IP as a business asset and put a dollar value on it. This can be of major importance on your balance sheet if you want to attract funds to grow your business or to find out what your business is worth if you want to sell it. To find out who can help you, read on.

2. Understand the different types of IP. Patents protect how an invention works, design registration protects its look. A registered trade mark protects brand names, logos, original sounds and scents and aspects of packaging. IP Australia’s website gives you more details at www.ipaustralia.gov.au or contact 1300 65 1010.

3. Keep your smart idea confidential – until it’s protected. If talking to others about your idea, use a confidentiality agreement, otherwise you could risk your legal protection and competitive advantage. Once signed by the party, a confidentiality agreement stops them from disclosing your idea to others without your permission. A lawyer can prepare this for you. 

4. Protect your idea using the IP system – wise innovators seek advice from an IP professional sooner rather than later. If you can commercialise your idea by yourself, the best strategy may be to keep it as a ‘trade secret’ forever. The Coca-Cola formula is a trade secret.

5. Build a model to help prospective financial backers visualise your smart idea and its market potential. Remember – don’t let anyone see it without protecting yourself first.

6. Keep track of all your development and protection costs to help you put a value on your IP and give you an idea of how profitable the whole venture could be.

7. Every business needs to research its potential market and understand its likely consumers, buyers, licensees, investors, manufacturers and distributors. Doing this will help you work out your per unit cost and that should give you a basis to see if you’ll succeed.

8. Many inventors are great at inventing, but to commercialise your idea you need business skills. Taking a course in business management or at least educating yourself via books or  accessing information on the web is fundamental.

9. There are different ways to make money from IP – you can sell it, license it or make products yourself. It might be more profitable in some cases not to manufacture it yourself. If you do this, get legal advice.

10. You have the legal right to protect your IP from unauthorised use. If this right is infringed you can seek legal action and even compensation through the courts against the offender. Keep an eye out for infringers. Not only do these copycats erode your hard won market share, poor quality imitations can quickly ruin your brand reputation. Seek the advice of a lawyer to help you take prompt action against infringers.

Research solicitors, patents attorneys, accountants or local inventor associations that may help you understand the method and costs in commercialising your ideas. The Federal Government also provides some financial assistance for innovators and these groups may tell you if you qualify.

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