No infringements: copyrights, patents and trademarks

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No infringements: copyrights, patents and trademarks


In Australia, copyright protection is free and automatici. This means as soon as one creates sufficiently original material that falls within one of the following categories, it is protected: textual materials; computer programs; artistic works including drawings, photographs, maps; dramatic and musical works; cinematographic films; sound recordings; broadcasts; and published editionsi. Ideas, concepts, styles, techniques and information are not protected by copyright lawi.

Especially for micro and small businesses that need to keep their costs down, the temptation of using text or images freely available on the Internet may be high.

Micro and small businesses that need to keep their costs down might be tempted to use text or visual material found online for their websites, social media channels or marketing materials. However, displaying a photo that you don't have permission to use on a company website or reproducing part of someone else's article without permission is copyright infringement, and you could be pursued by the copyright owner. "Unless the copyright owner makes a clear statement to the contrary, businesses should always assume material on the Internet is protected and permission will … be needed to use it"ii. For more information, see the Australian Copyright Council.

Patents, trademarks and designs

Patents and trademarks are protected, whether you use them intentionally or not.

Patents: "A patent is a right that is granted for any device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful. (It) ... gives you (the owner) exclusive rights to commercially exploit the invention for the life of the patent"iii. Computer-related inventions (eg. software or hardware) and business methods (eg. computerised accounting, monitoring, reporting or analysis systems) can be patented but this doesn't include business schemes or plans (eg. a fundraising plan)iii.

Logos are frequently trademarked - they can't be used by third parties in any form without permission.

Trademarks: "A trademark is a right that is granted for a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture and/or aspect of packaging"iv . There are two types of trademarks. The TM symbol (™ ) shows that the thing you are using is legally regarded as yours under common law. As a business, you are afforded certain protection against misrepresentation under trade practices or fair trading legislation, but the onus is on you to defend your rights or take legal action, which can be both expensive and time consumingv.

The other type is the registered trademark, which is shown through the R symbol (® ). "A registered trademark is legally enforceable and gives you exclusive rights to commercially use, license or sell it for the goods and services it is registered under"iv. Initial registration of a trademark is for ten years; subsequent renewal of the trademark will cost you a feevi.

Trademark registration is on a class basis, meaning that if a good or service is trademarked in one category, there can also be a good or service in another category with the same trademarkvii.

If you're an entrepreneur and about to start your own business, it's important to conduct a search for existing trademarks to make sure the name or logo you want to use (and trademark) is available. You cannot use logos, phrases, pictures and so on that have been trademarked by others without permission.

Designs: A design ("features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation that gives a product a unique appearance"viii) can be registered and protected. Look at searchable public electronic databases, at AU Designs Data Searching (ADDS) and the Official Journal of Designs, to make sure your design is unique.

Knowing what materials, services, devices or processes are legally protected and can't be used or duplicated by your business can save you from a lot of trouble. For more information on ways companies and individuals can protect their intellectual property, see IP Australia.

iAustralian Copyright Council 2014, An introduction to Copyright in Australia, March, viewed 15 April 2015, PDF available to download from

iiJames, F 2011, Copyright online - some tips for businesses, Australian Copyright Council, 27 July, viewed 15 April 2015,

iiiIP Australia 2014, Patents, Australian Government, viewed 15 April 2015,

ivIP Australia 2014, Trade marks, Australian Government, viewed 8 May 2015,

vIP Australia 2014, Is a trade mark the right choice? , viewed 8 May 2015,

viIP Australia 2014, About Trade Marks, Australian Government, viewed 8 May 2015,

viiIP Australia 2014, Trade mark FAQs, Australian Government, viewed 8 May 2015,

viiiIP Australia 2014, Designs, Australian Government, viewed 1 May 2015,