Protecting your intellectual property

By Anthony Caruana

You lock doors and windows, activate the alarm and get friends to keep an eye on things in an effort to protect your physical property. But what about the fruits of your labour and your priceless ideas? How do you protect them?

The internet has delivered a double-edged sword - we live in an era where accessing and sharing information is the easiest it's ever been. Like Gutenberg's printing press in the 1400s, the internet has accelerated the transmission of ideas. But it's also given rise to a time when we have to protect our information as it can be taken and shared without our permission.

How do we protect our intellectual property? There are a few easy steps.

1. Sharing documents

There may be times when you send documents to someone but you don't want them copying or repurposing them. Rather than sending the original Word documents around, send them as PDF files.

If you have a Mac, you can create PDF files by clicking the PDF button when you choose print. With Windows 7 or earlier, you can use a free PDF creator like CutePDF Writer to create PDF files. With Windows 8 and Office 2013, you can export files to PDF easily, which will prevent unwanted editing.

Professional PDF creation tools like Adobe Acrobat allow you to restrict copying and pasting, printing and other ways of reproducing your work.

2. Register with CAL

CAL, the Copyright Agency Limited, is a useful resource for writers and creative professionals. They allow companies to register and declare when they use copyright materials. The registration fees then go towards paying content creators.

3. Trademarks

Protecting your company's logo and other identifying livery is part of your intellectual property strategy. You can register trademarks at IP Australia.

4. Idea management

If you're developing a new product, make sure you maintain documentation that states you came up with the idea so that you can prove, if challenged, where the idea came from. Also, don't share ideas with everyone you know. Play your cards close to your chest in order to ensure that no one else borrows your idea. Once you've put it all together, you can search IP Australia to ensure that someone else hasn't already beaten you to the punch.

Although it's not as tangible as physical products, intellectual property is an important business asset. Your documents, ideas, designs, plans and images are valuable within your business and need to be protected. Don't share important information haphazardly - document what you do and register trademarks, designs, patents and other valuable intellectual assets with IP Australia.

How do you protect your intellectual property?

*This article contains general information and commentary only, and is not legal or financial advice, and you agree not to rely this article in any way.


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