A business owner with an original idea, design or product may ensure that no one 'steals' it by obtaining protection under laws relating to intellectual property such as the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) or the Designs Act 2003 (Cth). Advice may also be needed to ensure that the owner does not interfere with protection already given to another person, see: copyright.
In addition, a product may be patented at the Patents Office. This involves a specialised procedure requiring technical drawings and specifications of the product. Usually machines, manufacturing processes or drugs are patented.
An owner may also have to be careful not to breach the law of passing off. This area of common law allows a court to prohibit a person who either deliberately or innocently provides a product or service in such a way that consumers may mistake it for another supplier's product which already has an established market. This will depend on whether the similarity of the products (or services) and their presentation is likely to confuse potential buyers of the established product into buying the new product believing that new product is, or is related to, the product with which they are confident.
Another aspect of intellectual property to consider is the business name and its protection as a trademark under the Trademarks Act 1995 (Cth). It is easy to overlook doing so because new business owners may think that the registration of the business name or company name is sufficient to protect others from using it, which it is not. Although it is an additional administrative burden and cost when starting a business it will ensure that the rights to use the name as its brand are protected.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.