Can you patent an idea in Australia and how do you do it?

If you have an idea you want to use commercially and exclusively, how do you do it? With a patent. Here’s how the application process works.

How can you patent an idea in Australia?

Have you come up with a brilliant and unique idea that you want to build a business around in Australia but aren't sure how? Depending on the nature of the idea, one option may be to apply for a patent, giving you legal protection over your idea. But how do you do it?

Here's how you can patent an idea in Australia.

What is a patent?

A patent is the legal instrument used to protect the expression of an idea. If granted, it gives the patent holder certain rights around the use of that idea, principally, exclusive use of the idea in a commercial setting. With a patent behind you, you're able to stop others selling or manufacturing your invention, or licensing your invention to another party to manufacture and sell. In short, it gives you the legal right to determine how an invention is introduced to the market. 

In Australia, standard patents last for 20 years from the date they're filed for, protecting your idea for the long run and giving you plenty of time to build a business around it. 

A patent can protect your idea from being used by others without your permission.A patent can protect your idea from being used by others without your permission.

What kinds of things are patentable?

Patents can protect a device, substance, method or process according to IP Australia. 

Whatever form it takes, the idea must be new, useful and involve an inventive step. It can't just be an innovative step on already existing technology, or something obvious that an informed person in the field might do. Patents are reserved for ideas that are genuinely new and different from what has come before, so it's important to consult with the IP professionals early to determine whether your idea has a good chance of being accepted.

How can you apply for a patent?

The patent application process takes some time, so it's important you get all the steps right to minimise any delays.

Don't show your invention in public before filing an application.

First off, you mustn't show your invention in public before filing an application. Patents can only be granted for things that are secret, not those that are already public knowledge. If you reveal your invention publicly, it can jeopardise the chances of your patent being granted.

Generally, a patent application is going to begin with first filing another application, called a provisional. A provisional application is a quick and inexpensive way of establishing an early priority date for your invention. The full application process is lengthy, so a provisional holds your filing date for 12 months, giving you a bit more time.

You'll need to research the market for evidence of your invention already being used. This is a step that your patent attorney will be able to give valuable input into, as they'll have experience in the market you're looking to enter. Patent attorneys in Australia are required to have a degree in an area for which there is potentially patentable inventions – usually this is a science or engineering degree – so they're very knowledgeable as to what's already in the market.

The application itself requires you include:

  • A title.
  • A description of the invention.
  • Any number of claims.
  • Drawings if they're applicable.
  • An abstract and all the required forms. 

Once this is filed, the application is examined and checked for the patent to be either approved or rejected.

If you're considering taking your idea and business overseas, it's also worth considering a PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) application. While there's no such thing as an international patent, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has set up a system whereby making a PCT application gives you an additional 30 months to file a patent in any international market you wish to enter. This is useful, because if you're not sure where your business will be in that time, you still have the chance to enter those markets.

How can Alder IP help you with your patent application?

The team at Alder IP has a lot of experience dealing with patent applications. Our patent lawyers and attorneys have the backgrounds and experience necessary to give your application the best chance of success. We pride ourselves on offering quick turnarounds at the same time as we deliver high-quality work. We've gone through the application process many times before; we know what works and all the things that can go wrong. With us as your guide, getting your application approved and your patent granted is easier than it ever would be otherwise.

To learn more about how we can help you protect your intellectual property, get in touch with a member of the team today.