Getting started: Protecting your intellectual property

Getting started: Protecting your intellectual property.

Whether you’re a start-up or an established business, you might wonder if you have any intellectual property (IP), and if it needs to be protected. Identifying your own IP and finding out the best way to deter copycats and maintain brand integrity is a great first step towards discovering how IP right protection can support your business.


Where do I start?

You can start by considering how you would answer the following questions:

  • What are my key products or services that set my business apart from competitors? This may include a brand, logo, invention, design, artistic work, or new plant variety and each of these can be protected with registered IP rights.
  • What legal rights can I have for my products or services? There are four IP rights you can register with IP Australia to protect your products or services — trade marks, patents, design rights and plant breeder’s rights. To maximise your competitive advantage, you may need to protect your idea with multiple types of IP rights.
  • Does having registered IP right protection improve my place in the market? Your customers come to expect a certain level of quality and service from you and your brand, allowing you to establish and build your brand presence and reputation in the market. Not having a registered IP right leaves room for other businesses to copy you and confuse customers – misleading them into thinking they are you. Registering your IP gives you exclusivity in chosen markets, providing a legal defence pathway to prevent others from imitating you or producing and selling your product without having agreements it place.Registered IP right protection can provide many advantages as you plan for business growth. So, think about how you intend to use and commercialise your IP to give you your competitive advantage. Also identify your potential markets and consider licensing or franchising to generate revenue for your business.

Having answers to these questions will help you with identifying and placing value on your IP, so you can decide if registering an IP right is right for your business.

Determining whether to pursue IP protection is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. You should carefully evaluate each of these factors for your business when deciding how to protect your IP. It may seem a daunting process, but the protection and commercialisation of IP should be an integral part of your business’ strategy.

IP rights can be vital in securing revenue streams and building consumer and investor confidence in your products or services, particularly for a start-up business. IP rights provide a solid foundation for a business to innovate and grow. Ultimately, seeking the right advice and guidance in understanding the strategic value of IP is critical to building a successful business.


Where can I find out more?

You can find out if your idea is eligible for IP protection and determine what kind of IP rights you need with IP Australia’s online business resources. Visit IP Australia’s website to learn more about the importance of protecting your assets early and planning for business growth.


Need help?

If you need some help or advice, IP professionals can assist you along your IP journey, see more on our website.

Registering your trade mark: A how-to guide for exporters

Registering your trade mark: A how-to guide for exporters

IP Australia’s Intellectual Property Report 2022 outlines how small and medium sized businesses benefit from intellectual property (IP) ownership. Before you export, consider registering your intellectual property (IP) for protection in Australia as well as the countries you intend to trade in.

You could start by registering a trade mark. A trade mark protects your brand and distinguishes your products or services from your competition in the market. Trade mark registration lasts for ten years from the filing date, and can be renewed indefinitely.

IP Australia estimates that of the total 2.3 million registered Australian small businesses, less than 2% currently have a registered trade mark (around 28,000). This percentage is even lower for small to medium sized businesses exporting to other countries, with Australian residents filing a total of 20,452 trade mark applications abroad in 2020.

Interested in applying? Here is a step-by-step guide for registering your trade mark.


Step 1: Learn more about trade marks and decide if yours is eligible for registration

IP can be a very valuable asset for your business and should be protected to stop others using it both domestically and internationally. The most common types of trade marks are brand names, logos or a distinctive phrase.

A registered trade mark gives you the ability to:

  • maintain the exclusive rights to use the mark on select goods and services
  • license others to use your registered trade mark
  • sell your registered trade mark as a business asset
  • Use the (R) symbol with your trade mark.


Step 2: Conduct a check to make sure your trade mark isn’t already registered by someone else

TM Checker is a free trade mark tool created by IP Australia to make it easier for businesses to check trade mark availability in Australia. The tool will give you an idea if there are already trade marks that might be similar to your brand or name in the proposed classes of good and services – from there it’s a simple process to complete the application to register a text or logo trade mark.

More information on international trade marks is at step 3.

You may also want to check availability of the business name and domain name at this step. Whether you’re a sole trader, a company or a trust, provides a Help me decide tool to guide on the registrations you might need.


Step 3: Choose relevant goods and services

Your business may be providing goods, services or both. Trade marks only protect your name, brand or logo for the specific goods and/or services selected when you apply. That’s why your trade mark application must list the goods and services that the trade mark will be used in relation to.

Trade marks ‘classes’ refer to the groups of goods and services available for registering your trade mark. Fees are generally charged per class, and for the same price you can choose as many goods or services within a particular class as you need.


Step 4: File the application

a) Applying for an Australian registered trade mark

Applying for a registered trade mark in Australia takes approximately 15 minutes and starts at $250 for a standard application through the IP Australia website, or from $330 if you use IP Australia’s TM Headstart service or the TM Checker Tool.

To apply for a registered trade mark in Australia you must reside (or have an agent that resides) in Australia or New Zealand and intend to use the trade mark for the goods and/or services in your application.

IP rights granted in Australia do not provide protection in other countries. To protect IP in other countries, Australian applicants must file trade mark applications abroad in those countries.

There are different ways you can file a trade mark, depending on the countries you wish to do business in.

b) Applying for International registered trade marks

Trade mark applicants can obtain and maintain protection for their marks in multiple countries by filing a single international registration via the Madrid System. The Madrid System allows you to file a single trade mark application to apply for protection in up to 129 countries.

Before you can apply via the Madrid System, you’ll need a trade mark application or registration in Australia. You can learn more about the Madrid System, and apply, through the World Intellectual Property Organisation website here.

You can also apply directly with foreign intellectual property offices. In 2021, 47% of the Australian applications made abroad were filed directly with overseas offices. The most popular destinations for these filings include:


About IP Australia

IP Australia is the Australian Government agency that administers intellectual property (IP) rights and legislation relating to patents, trade marks, designs and plant breeder’s rights. IP Australia has a wealth of IP related data dating back to the inception of the patent office in 1904. To find out more about IP Australia visit