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Forget physical property: It’s in the idea!

Friday, 10 October 2014 | By Vanessa Emilio

Ruslan Kogan, new addition to the BRW Rich List this year with an estimated wealth of $315 million and founder of one of Australia’s fastest growing companies www.kogan.com, was quoted in an Australian Financial Review article saying:


"In the past it was all about physical property, who owns the land, what capital gains are there on the land, how much money you could borrow from the bank. Now all it takes is an idea, securing your intellectual property and creating a digital product that enhances lives."


Coming from someone who had his first business at age 10 and was Australia’s richest person under 30 in 2011, this is good advice about taking the time to protect your greatest assets.


How do you do this?


Register your IP early. If you delay, you may lose your opportunity. If you are the ‘creator’ with exclusive ownership and control, you will have the right to protect this for 10 years as a design, 20 years as a patent and indefinitely as a trademark provided you continue to pay the renewal fees.


You need to ensure whatever you are protecting is:


  • original;
  • not disclosed to the public domain before registration; and
  • you are the creator.


Not unlike the famous monkey case in the US where a monkey took a selfie which went viral and the owner of the camera claimed copyright ownership, you have to be able to show you are the creator and that it is not already in the public domain.


What about protection of my business idea?


You need to understand the difference between a company, a business name and trademarks. If you have a registered trademark, you have proprietary rights in the asset but you do not if you have a company or business name.


In other words, ASIC does not know what you may be using your registered business name or company for, so they cannot protect this. However, if you register the trademark, other people cannot do the same business under your name, i.e. sell the same goods or services under your trademark or it will be infringement.


How can I protect my idea while it is being developed?


Good question! You need to ensure your employment and contractor agreements confirm that you will own the IP created while they are working for you. You need to state that the final product, whether it is software code, a design, logo, tagline, whatever it may be that you are paying for, belongs to you exclusively with full title and ownership rights and cannot be reproduced or used by anyone else in any form.


You also need to include a strong confidentiality/non-disclosure clause in any contractor or employment agreement. This should require anyone exposed to your information to have the obligation to keep it confidential.


So how do I tell the world?


You can post your IP notification on website and in your commercial business agreements as well as company documents. You can use TM or  © but do not rely solely on this. You need to check your brand and similar businesses to ensure they are not ignoring and breaching your IP ownership.


IP registration helps your build value in your business by protecting your assets and helps fend off unfair competition which has become more ripe and frequent with the growth of the internet and new online businesses. It’s much easier to show and convince investors the value in your assets and business when you can show them registered protection and ownership of your assets.


Image credit: Flickr/cristiancarrara


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