This transcript is for the video Dream Shield - Alison Page Radio Interview.

[IP Australia logo appears on top right of screen with text below it that reads: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.]

[Image changes to show a photo of Alison Page with text: Nanga Mai Arung - Dream Shield]
Narrator:   On the line is Alison Page, Aboriginal designer and panellist on the ABC's New Inventors. Alison is talking with us today about intellectual property, or IP, and why it's so important for Aboriginal businesses.

[Image changes to show The New Inventors homepage on their website with a picture of Alison Page showing]

Great to have you with us. I've got to say, I really love the New Inventors. What's it like working on the show?

Alison Page:  It's awesome fun. You know, you meet so many talented and imaginative people on the show.

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page]

I've seen a lot of ideas and I'm always impressed by how passionate people are about their inventions.

Narrator:  So what do you think makes a good invention?

[Image changes to show a trophy labelled "The New Inventors, The New Inventors 2010 Episode Winner]

Alison Page:  Oh well, I think that's bit subjective but you know, there's always a commercial perspectives and great inventions basically identify the problem and solves it. In fact, the bigger the problem is, the more potential it has to make money. So inventions are something that's new and different to the current technology, it's usually cheaper, faster, safer, more reliable or a combination of those things.

Narrator:  So let me get this right. You protect an invention with a patent, right?

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page with text:

  • What is IP?
  •  Patents
  •  Trade Marks
  •  Designs
  •  Plant Breeder's Rights
  •  Copyright
  •  Other IP]

Where does copyright or trade marks or designs fit in? There's different ways to protect music and business names and perhaps a unique look and feel of a product. It all gets a bit confusing if I'm just the local car mechanic or running a small tourism business don't you think?

Alison Page:  Oh totally, you're right. And the whole thing is a bit confusing. It's taken me years to navigate my way around the whole thing. But that's what we're trying to do with Nanga Mai Arung, the DreamShield Project.

[Image changes to show an image of the Nanga Mai Arung, Dream Shield book. Text below the title reads: A guide to protecting designs, brands and inventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders]

You know we're taking really complex stuff, distilling it down and trying to make it easier to understand. You know, you'd be surprised how many ways IP is important. 

[Image changes to show a picture of barbed wire with text: Don't let competitors benefit for your hard work]

You know, everything from making sure your trade mark, the name of your business to patenting your inventions or even traditional medicines, all of that is intellectual property.

Narrator:  Well, for most of our listeners, they don't have a cure for cancer.

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page] 

You know, if they're running their business; they usually just register the business name and then just get on with making money.

[Image changes to show a sign with an Aboriginal painting and text: Black Pages]

Alison Page:  Well, you'd be surprised. You know, most small business owners don't even realise that registering your business name doesn't give you any real rights. You actually have to register it as a trade mark otherwise you run the risk of getting a nasty letter or phone call from someone who thinks that they own that name.

[Image changes to show a picture of Paul Newman, Black Pages, with text: "Having a registered trade mark helps. People take us seriously."

And you can be rest assured that will be after you've printed all your brochures and done your whole branding.

Narrator:  OK so trade marks are obviously important for small business, but what about patents, aren't they more for big companies?

[Image changes to show a photo of man with text: Shhhhh….. Keep quiet about your invention or design until you've got IP protection]

Alison Page:  Not necessarily. Like some of the best inventions come from people that see a problem and just come up with a better way of doing things.

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page]

And that can be a really small business like even a sole trader. It doesn't have to be rocket science or a cure for cancer, you know the thing is, if you don't get patent protection before you tell other people or start using it in the market place then it's pretty much gone and anyone can steal your idea. You know the classic horror story is the power board; you know the multiple adaptor for power points. Kambrook, an Australian company invented it but they just forgot to get patent protection and now it's a free for all and everyone's copying them.

[Sketches and photos of different inventions flash on screen]

Narrator:  So are there many Aboriginal inventors?

Alison Page:  Look there's a few, we've had a few on the show but, you know, we think there's probably a lot more out there who aren't making the most of their ideas. Once again, I can't stress enough; even simple things can be patented and still make money. You know, take Chris Truen for example. He's an electrician, he's working in mines in W.A. It's as hot as hell out there, he's fixing big, industrial light bulbs in 40 degree heat and thinking there's got to be a better way of doing this. So fast forward a couple of years later, he's come up with a really simple fitting that, you know, he's made it out of industrial grade plastic, it's basically just a plug and play type thing, you just screw it on. So he's turned a half an hour job into a one minute job, he's made it a whole lot safer as well.

[Sketches and pictures of an invention flash on screen]

Apparently you don't even need to turn off the mains power, you know, which makes it really convenient and that's a real selling point. So he's got his provisional patent before he shops it around and now he's got trials going on in about a hundred sites in Australia. You know he's not a millionaire yet but what's to say he won't be in a few years' time.

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page]

Narrator:   OK. So I'm running a small business and I've invented something or designed something that's gonna make a lot of money or I hope so, what do I need to do? Do I go and see a lawyer and spend a lot of money on legal fees? 
Alison Page:   Look, this is a question we get all the time, us judges on the New Inventors but you know, you've got to work out what it's worth to you. Every story has an individual answer to that question. But if your invention has a lot riding on it, it's definitely worthwhile getting professional advice, and do it before you tell anyone because otherwise it's too late.

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page]

Narrator:   So, what about Aboriginal designers, um, they're maybe running an Arts and Crafts business or designing materials or clothing, they don't really invent anything. It's more about creating their art, so how can they protect themselves from manufacturers taking advantage of them?

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page]

Alison Page:  That's a really good question because it's a question we get a lot. They can actually apply to register their designs with IP Australia as well, the same government agency that handles trade marks and patents. But the important thing to remember is that you've got to do this before you print any brochures or advertise your design or get it out there. It has to be totally new to the market place and it has to be distinctive. You know, if it's Aboriginal it's probably going to tick that box.

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page with text:

  •  What are Designs?
  • Product's appearance or "look"
  • Lasts ten years (if renewed)
  • Must be new and distinctive]

Narrator:   I'm still confused about all the different types of IP. Where does copyright fit in?

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page with text:

What is Copyright?

  • Music
  • Books
  • Painting
  • Films and broadcasts
  • Last 70 years after the author]

Alison Page:   Copyright's for things like music books and paintings. You don't have to apply for it, it's automatic once you've created your work and the law says that it actually lasts for seventy years after the death of the author.  So look, it's an asset you can actually pass down to your grandkids assuming your paintings are worth something.

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page with text:

What is a Trade Mark?

  • Brands
  • Words
  • Logos
  • Films and broadcasts
  • Lasts indefinitely (if renewed)]

Trade Marks, they protect brands, works and logos and you need to apply for that.

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page with text:

What are Patents?

  • For inventions
  • Must be new and useful
  • Lasts up to 20 years
  • "Inventive step" is strict]

Patents are a totally different beast. Patents are for inventions and they've got a really strict criteria. They're not automatically granted because they have to be examined for inventiveness.

[Image changes to show a You Tube video, entitled, Traditional Knowledge]

They have to be totally new. Neither patents nor designs last forever either. You get about twenty years for a patent and you get about ten years for a design.

[Image changes to show a photo of six men standing in front of a sign that reads Jarlmadangah Burru]

Narrator:  Now what about traditional knowledge?  I noticed on your Dream Shield videos on the web there's the story about the Jarlmadangah Burru community in the Kimberleys. John Watson, he's an elder there and it's an amazing story. He lost his finger hunting crocodiles and used a traditional medicine as a painkiller.

[Image changes to show a spilt screen with a photo of John Watson on one side and colleagues at Griffith University on the other]

So why did his community end up partnering with Griffiths University on that patent?

Alison Page:  Yeah look, it's an amazing story isn't it? You know, they got their legal advice and they felt they could trust the University in a benefit sharing arrangement and they just had that arrangement put in writing.

[Image changes to show a different photo of Alison Page with text:

 Keep it Simple?

It's all about making an informed decision. The important thing to remember with traditional knowledge though is that if you want to get a patent, it goes on the public register for everyone to see, so if it's sacred you might not want that. The other thing is, after that twenty years, anyone can use it but there is a commercial opportunity if that's what you want.

Narrator:  It still seems like a bit of a minefield. How can we just keep it simple?

Alison Page:   Well look, every story is individual so it's really important to get professional help and get it early. You need to do this before you start your business, before you share your work with anyone and before you advertise it. You've really got to watch out for that publicity trap because if you start advertising your IP before you think about protecting it, you can really run into all sorts of problems. And I could tell you many stories where I've done that myself (laughs).

[Image changes to show a page opened up on the IP Australia website]

I really want to challenge Aboriginal business owners to think really carefully about what makes your business special, you know, that's what makes you stand out from the competition. It's the thing that when you strip everything away, it's the intellectual property; it's their ideas.

[Text appears alongside Alison Page's book, which reads: Questions? IP Australia 1300 65 10 10]

If you don't know how to protect your ideas then you're really asking for trouble. You know, I think that Aboriginal designs and inventions can really compete on the world stage but if we're just giving away our ideas then we're never going to grow. So, look, just check out the website There's heaps of information there and don't be afraid to put your hands up and ask for help seriously, it's there for the taking.

Narrator:  Thanks Alison. I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

Alison Page:  No problems. I appreciate it. Thanks.

Last updated: 
Wednesday, April 6, 2016