A mysterious man in the shadows

Debunking Myths - A Basic Guide to Intellectual Property

By James Wan

Intellectual property (IP). Two words that ring bells in the business world, but what does it all mean? Picture it as the secret recipe that gives your business its unique taste. It could be a snazzy gadget, an eye-catching logo, or sophisticated software.

The crux of the matter is that your IP, like your secret recipe, is your business’s crown jewel. It’s a mighty tool to keep your business distinctive and competitive. By protecting it, you’re not just defending your business—you’re enhancing the value of your products or services. But, you might ask, how can we separate the myths from the facts about IP? Let’s cut to the chase.

Myth 1: “I made it; I own it!”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s not always the case. IP ownership isn’t always as simple as “I created it, so it’s mine.” If you’re an employee, your employer owns the IP you create during work hours. On the flip side, if you’re off the clock or a contractor, you own what you create—unless the contract says otherwise. Paid to create IP? You still might not own it. Lesson learned? Make your contracts clear about who owns what.

Myth 2: “My IP is safe worldwide.”

Think again. Each country has its IP laws—no one-size-fits-all protection here. Your IP rights can only flex their muscles in countries where they’re registered. If you’re doing business in multiple countries, remember to register your IP in each.

Myth 3: “I changed it, so it’s not infringement.”

Not so fast! Even slight modifications can infringe on IP rights. Copyright is all about the quality, not the quantity, of what’s copied. You could be in hot water if you copy even a tiny but significant part. For trademarks, even a crafty misspelling could land you in trouble if it’s too similar to another mark.

Myth 4: ”™ means it’s registered.”

Not quite. The TM symbol is like a name tag, showing you’re using something as a trademark. But it doesn’t mean it’s registered. That’s what the ® symbol is for.

Myth 5: “No one else can use my registered trademark.”

Well, it’s not that straightforward. In Australia, trademarks are tied to specific categories of goods or services. Your registration only protects you against similar marks in the same or similar categories.

Myth 6: “My business name is protected by ASIC registration.”

Hold your horses. Registering your business name with ASIC doesn’t give you the exclusive right to use it. Others can use the same or similar names. Want to avoid copycats? Register your name as a trademark.

Actually, no. In Australia, copyright exists automatically as soon as you create something tangible. Paint a painting? You’ve got copyright.

Myth 8: “It’s on the internet, so I can use it.”

Hold on there! Publishing work on the internet doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. Copyright owners can choose who uses their work and how. So, remember, just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s free to use.

In a nutshell, IP is a complex field. But when you understand the truths behind these myths, you can harness their power to propel your business to new heights.