18 May 2015

Patents, trade marks, franchising, and designs were all part of the discussion on last night’s Shark Tank. If you’re getting confused by some of the terms you hear, check out our IP jargon buster.

Marie and Rachel from Synxsole are two inventors who certainly know their numbers. After telling the Sharks that the footwear industry is worth $4.5million, the podiatrists told the sharks about their business, including that they had trade mark protection, held patents and registered designs in several countries.

The intellectual property around product innovation can often be protected with patents and designs. Patents protect how a product works. If a technology is inventive, new and useful, then it may qualify for patent protection.

Different by design

Designs focus on how a product looks. It’s a subtle but important difference. Looks can’t be patented, but they can be protected by a registered design. Depending on the industry you’re in, how a product looks may be more important than how it works (think clothing and jewellery).

So how do you get your design registered?  There are two criteria; it has to be new and distinctive. A design refers to the shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation which gives a product its unique appearance. ‘New’ means, the design has never been used or published. Examiners look at publications and design databases all over the world to determine if something is truly novel. (‘Novelty’ is similar in patents, where examiners conduct world-wide searches).

‘Distinctive’ is a little more subjective and depends on the industry you’re in. In cluttered markets like the mobile phone industry, customers are more sophisticated and can discern subtle differences. Other industries may be different, but the intent of the law remains the same; avoiding confusion and rewarding innovation.

As with patents and trade marks, you can also register your design overseas, just like Synxsole did. Australia belongs to the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (the Paris Convention). There are over 150 member countries of this treaty. It means that if you file an application for a design in Australia and if you file an application overseas within six months, then the foreign application uses the Australian application date at the priority date. Find out more about international design applications – Convention Applications.

Making your pitch memorable

We’ve heard the Sharks talk a lot about the need to know your business numbers, to correctly value your IP and your sales growth and how a strong brand is memorable. Last night we saw what will likely remain one of the most memorable pitches of the series.