2 March 2015

What can I patent?

So you’ve got a new business idea, but can it be patented? Not necessarily. Some great business ideas are just great ideas, not inventions.

Last night Simon Fiske from Dr Drum Furniture pitched his re-purposed 10 gallon drum furniture. When asked if he had a patent, Simon jumped straight to the obvious - the chairs couldn’t be patented because people have made chairs from gallon drums before.

So what can I patent you ask?

IP Australia’s website provides a brief overview of what can and can’t be patented. In short, your invention must be:

  • completely new
  • a manner of manufacture - a technology that is commercially useful
  • not obvious to a skilled person working in your industry.

You cannot patent:

  • an idea, or discovery of a natural phenomenon
  • a mathematical algorithm or formulae
  • a recipe.

This is where understanding the different types of IP can help. You may not have a patentable invention, but your new business idea could benefit from other IP like trade marksdesigns or copyright.

Simon was able to register the design of the chairs, protecting the way the furniture looks. A fine example of how to figure out what rights are suitable for your invention, business or product can be seen in the Sand Wedge, a beach chair with a difference. Inventor Katherine Drayton talks about the process she went through when considering registering her IP.

We were ‘wiggin’ out’ with the Sharks last night when Brooke Annan pitched her party-plan style wig business - a 'sell-hair-bration'! We were very happy to hear that Brooke has applied for a patent for her new wig cap invention. Already having her application in meant Brooke could safely talk about her invention without risking the loss of her IP.

Getting a trade mark to work for you

Last week we talked about why you might need a trade mark for your business and how it can protect the identity of your business. The Mexican wave of Ranchero that swept through the Shark Tank last night was proof that registering your trade mark can help your business confidently market your brand.

Another marketing tactic used by Giselle and Emilio Cano from Ranchero is the Australian Made logo that sits proudly on all their bottles of sauce. The logo shows customers that a product has been manufactured in Australia and 50% or more of the cost of making it can be attributed to Australian materials. The criteria for food products is even more strict so that customers aren’t confused about the product’s true country-of-origin. We recently spoke with Ian Harrison, CEO of Australian Made about the logo and the benefits it can bring to your business.

Episode 5 of Shark Tank airs 8.00pm Sunday 8 March 2015 on TEN.

If you have a new innovation or business idea, why not start with the basics of Understanding Intellectual Property?

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