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Types of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a product of the human intellect or creation of the mind. Like physical properties, business can legally protect intellectual property to prevent unauthorized use or execution without consent. It can be a set of intangible assets, such as patents, trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights, or simply ideas.


A patent is an exclusive right granted for the use or implementation of a unique idea or invention. The invention could be a product or a process, a new way of doing something, or an innovative technical solution to a problem. The patent excludes everybody, except the patent holder, from making, selling or implementing the invention. In exchange for this monopoly, the technical information about the invention is made publicly available in a published patent document so as to become free for use by the public at the end of the term of the patent.

In order to make an invention eligible for patent, a patent attorney in Sydney will look for the following characteristics:

  • Novelty – it must not be known or used by any other business or party, or patented in a printed publication, or in public use or for sale.
  • Non-obviousness – it must not be obvious to any person with ordinary skill in the relevant art at the time the invention was made.
  • Usefulness – it should have a beneficial use as a process, act or method


A trademark is a design, logo, symbol, word, or phrase, or any combination thereof, that represents a product or distinguishes the goods or services of one business from those of other businesses. An example of a trademark word would be “Qantas” or “Speedo”.

Having a trademark registered gives the business freedom to use, meaning no other party can make or use it. Furthermore, when a patent and trademark attorneys successfully registers a trademark, it prevents other businesses from using deceptively similar trademarks.

Trade Secrets

In general terms, a trade secret is anything intangible that gives a business a competitive edge and is used to make the business more successful. Trade secrets can include confidential business information, a program, device, technique, method, formula or pattern, which derives independent economic value. Specific examples of trade secrets could be customer and supplier lists, sales methods, soda formulas, survey results, manufacturing processes and computer algorithms.

Unlike patents and trademarks, trade secrets cannot be registered for protection. Instead, protection of a trade secret lasts only as long as a business takes the necessary measures to control disclosure and use of the confidential information. Consequently, a trade secret can be protected for an unlimited period of time, making them attractive for SMEs.


Copyright is a form of legal protection that protects the original works or ideas of creators, such as music, literature, artistic works, and computer software. Works that can be protected by copyright include music, paintings, books, sculpture, maps, technical drawings, databases, and computer programs. The holder of a copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, and distribute the original work.

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