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Can you buy insurance for your ideas?

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A company will generally not think twice about protecting its physical and tangible assets through insurance premiums. For example, premiums may be between 1% and 5% of the total cover for business insurance as can be seen by clicking here. However, when it comes to protecting a company’s intangible assets the same care, budget allocation and expertise is usually not applied.

One form of intangible asset is Intellectual Property (IP), which can equate to a large portion of a company’s worth. Therefore, IP protection should always be considered.

It’s important that the commercial strategy of a company precede any IP strategy. There are many IP strategies that may be considered depending on the company’s commercial position and chosen risk profile. The range of IP options available provides variations in associated costs, protection duration, speed and ease of implementation and so will usually result in some form of suitable IP protection for most businesses.

Registrable forms of IP include patents, designs, trade marks and plant breeder’s rights. Information on these forms of IP is available from IP Australia by clicking here. The cost of protecting these forms of IP can be perceived as prohibitive, whereas in reality IP strategies are usually available that meet the commercial goals of the business.

Both strong IP and weak IP can be pursued in different ways depending on the company’s commercial position.

For example, some forms of IP may be considered to be of high commercial value but perceived to have a low level of ingenuity. Other IP may have relatively low commercial value requiring cost-effective forms of protection. Other forms of IP may not be generally perceived as being protectable at all, such as computer software programs. There is however usually some form of suitable IP strategy a vailable.

For example, one form of IP protection available in Australia is the innovation patent. This is available for inventions that are considered to have a relatively low level of ingenuity. One benefit of this system is that a substantive examination process is not initially required and a patent can be granted within a few months with relatively low cost. Further information on the innovation patent system is available by clicking here.

When it comes to protecting registrable forms of IP, timing is very important. Depending on the form of IP being pursued, careful planning is required to ensure the IP is secured — especially if protection overseas is needed.

In Australia it is possible to file a patent application after the invention has been disclosed to the public. However, this can be problematic if it is decided that protection overseas is required, especially if Europe is considered an important commercial market.

It’s not always necessary to follow a formal registration process to obtain protection. For example, copyright, confidential information and trade secrets are important forms of IP that do not require registration. However, it is important that systems are in place to identify and maintain these rights.

The key to protection is through obtaining professional advice early on.

Guy Tucker is a registered Australian and New Zealand patent attorney. He is also a qualified European and UK Patent Attorney. He operates under the name Ellis Terry and is based in Sydney. His profile is available by clicking here.

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