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IP Australia is the government department that administers patents, trade marks, designs and plant breeders rights. Registering intellectual property is a process that is dealt with by IP Australia.

Copyright is an automatic right. The regulation of copyright is a process that is administered through the Attorney-General’s Department.

Intellectual property laws protect the use of ideas. They do not protect ideas as such. The types of things that are protected by intellectual property laws include creative works, inventions, brands, industrial designs and trade secrets,

Intellectual property has the same basic attributes as all other property. An owner of an item of intellectual property has a legally enforceable right to:

  • use and enjoy;
  • allow others to use and enjoy;
  • sell; and
  • exclude others from using and enjoying.

There are four statutory regimes in the area of intellectual property law. These are:

In addition, there are two pieces of legislation dealing with specific aspects of intellectual property:

The general law in Australia also plays a role in intellectual property law, particularly in the protection of confidential information and trade secrets and in the protection of business reputation. Consumer protection legislation also plays a dual role, in protecting business reputation on the one hand, and in restricting anti-competitive conduct on the other.

There are a number of international agreements relating to intellectual property. The most notable is the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)  TRIPS sets minimum standards for intellectual property laws that all member states (including Australia) have to comply with.

Copyright is the most well known form of intellectual property. This chapter explains the basic legal structures in Australia around intellectual property, with particular focus on copyright law, and provides resources for further information and research.

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