Recently, I have been approached with various enquiries from clients as to what can indeed be patented? Without delving into the nuts and bolts of patentability requirements set forth in Patents Act, my answer to them has always been, as long as the invention serves functional purposes and that the difference over the prior publication or what is known in the field to date, gives distinctive advantages, such as increased efficiency, reduced cost, increase in throughput etc, then the differences may very well warrant patent protection. This is the general rule of thumb for me to assess whether something is indeed patentable.
To better appreciate the scope of protection by a patent, perhaps it may be worthwhile to see how it compares with other forms of IP. Registered designs for example, is a form of IP where one would seek to protect all aspects of the appearance of a product resulting from one or more visual features like the shape, pattern and the configurations thereof. Even though a registered design does not protect the functionality of a product, a visual feature that also serves a functional purpose concurrently does not preclude it from obtaining a desire registration.
Another popular form of intellectual property that is often confused with designs and patents is a trade mark. A trade mark is essentially a sign used by businesses to identify and distinguish the goods or services they provide from other businesses. So a trade mark may effectively be in a form of any word, name, brand, logo, or a combination thereof.
Copyright is also a form of intellectual property that protects a material expression of an idea provided that the expression of the idea is all original. The material expressions can take the form spanning from literary, artistic works to sound and broadcasts. However unlike the aforementioned intellectual properties, copyright protection arises automatically without the need for registration.
Finally, keeping an intellectual property confidential may also be an avenue of protection. This is particularly the case in Australia where the information subject of confidence, would warrant protection under equity and contract law.
This post has summarised the key aspects of various forms of IP protection. Please contact us if you wish to find out more on a full range of IP protection means for your invention.