How do I protect my product?


So you’ve developed and built a great new product and you’re nearly ready to take it to market.

Let’s explore what protection there might be for your product, whether a physical product or a software product, and what you can do to put your product in the best position to be a success.

Protect the way your product works

The first and most powerful intellectual property (IP) right that can be used to protect a product is a patent.  In simple terms, a patent protects the way that something works. 

So if aspects of your product work in a new way and provide some form of advantage these aspects of your product may be patentable. 

Protect the way your product looks

Another key IP right for protecting products is a registered design.  In contrast to patents which protect the way your product works, designs protect the way it looks.

There are some unregistered design rights that exist as soon as you designed your product.  You have these rights already, even if you didn’t realise.

However, these unregistered design rights have limitations, primarily in that you have to prove copying.

It is worth considering obtaining registered design protection for the look of your product because it should provide stronger protection.

Protect what it’s called

If your product has a name, then don’t forget to look to protect the name as a trade mark.

Wrapping your product layers of different IP rights will provide you with strong protection for your product.

And protect all related content

Copyright is best known for protecting original creative ‘works’ such as books, films, music and photographs.  However, it is worth remembering that copyright also exists in commercial documents. 

For products, this could be website content about the product, sales brochures or any other related marketing collateral. Furthermore, if your product is a software product, or includes some software, then there’s likely to be copyright in the code.

Protect then disclose

So you may be able to protect aspects of the way your product looks and works, along with the associated branding and marketing collateral.

To ensure that you put yourself in the best position to obtain both patent and registered design protection, don’t disclose how your product works or looks before applying for protection. 

While some countries have grace periods for such prior disclosures, in some countries any prior disclosure of such information could be used to attack the validity of your patent or registered design.

It’s best to be safe and seek protection first.

Answer last updated: 17 Jan 2018