Shark Tank wrap up 8 – What can and can’t be patented?

Published: 
30 March 2015

It was great to see Tommy Sugo and the Stink Brothers from last night’s show protecting their brand name with a trade mark! You too can protect your business assets with a trade mark; check out ourShark Tank wrap up 3 - trade marks and business names explained.

Interesting fact: English translation of the Italian word SUGO appearing in the TOMMY SUGO trade mark is SAUCE!

While last night’s entrepreneurs held trade mark protection, we thought it important to touch on past Shark Tank pitches, where the entrepreneurs featured had patent protection, and fill you in on what can and can’t be patented.  

Here’s a quick overview to dispel some of the confusion.

What’s a patent?

patent is a right that is granted for any device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive, and useful.

A patent is legally enforceable and gives you (the owner), exclusive rights to commercially exploit the invention for the life of the patent!

What can be patented?

You can apply for patent protection for a range of inventions. These include traditional inventions such as appliances and mechanical devices but also:

What can’t be patented?

You cannot patent human beings, artistic creations (copyright covers this), mathematical models or purely mental processes.

It’s important not to confuse patents with other forms of intellectual property. A patent protects how a technology works. A registered design protects how it looks. A trade mark protects the reputation orbrand of the seller.

The difference between a design and patent? Design refers to the appearance of your product. For example, last night’s G-Stick could patent the product for its output and register its design for its shape as it has a unique, new and distinctive appearance.  

Finally, copyright protects the unique creative expression of an author or artist (and includes less obvious things like technical drawings, software, building plans, and instruction manuals). Of course, each different type of IP has different criteria for protection and will protect your business differently.

Great entrepreneurs understand their customers’ needs better than anyone else. Thankfully, IP can protect most aspects of this knowledge. A combination of trade mark, patent and design protection on the one product can make a formidable barrier to entry.

Tip: Don't go public too soon - If you demonstrate, sell or discuss your invention in public before you file, you may not get a patent. If you want to discuss it with employees or business partners, have them sign a confidentiality agreement.

The great Aussie ideas keep coming! Episode 8 of Shark Tank airs 7.30pm Sunday 12 April 2015 after the Easter break on TEN, giving the sharks plenty to feed off.