What are patents?

A patent protects any device, substance, method or process that's new, inventive and useful.  

At a glance

  • Shield
    Protects new inventions such as devices, substances, methods and processes
  • Cost $110 (min) for a provisional patent, up to several thousand dollars for full protection
  • Calendar
    Takes between 6 months (min) and several years to register
  • Renew
    Lasts up to 20 years (standard) to 25 years (pharmaceutical) provided renewal fees are paid

What does a patent protect?

You can use a patent to protect devices, substances, methods or processes. In order to be granted a patent, you'll need to make sure that your invention is:

  • New — it must be novel
  • Useful — it can be made or used in an industry
  • Inventive — it's different enough to what already exists
  • A suitable subject matter, known as 'manner of manufacture'.

Examples of patents

A patent can cover a broad range of inventions, including:

  • Medical technology
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Biotech
  • Organic chemistry
  • Civil engineering
  • Appliances
  • Mechanical devices.

In certain circumstances, patents can also be granted for computer-related inventionsbiological inventions and microorganisms. In more limited circumstances, business methods may also qualify.

What can’t be patented

You can't patent:

  • Human beings or the biological process for their generation
  • Artistic creations
  • Mathematical models
  • Plans, schemes or other purely mental processes.

How do patents work?

Here's a quick video that explains what patents are and how they can protect your product.

What are patents?

What are patents?

A patent protects new inventions such as devices, substances, methods, and processes.

You can use a patent to protect your invention as long as it's new, useful, inventive, and a suitable subject matter.

Patents can protect lots of different types of inventions like medical technology, pharmaceuticals, appliances, and mechanical devices.

But some ideas can't be patented. You can't patent things like human beings, artistic creations, mathematical models, plans, schemes, or mental processes.

A standard patent lasts up to 20 years, and 25 years for pharmaceutical substances, provided renewal fees are paid.

Once your patent is granted, you'll receive exclusive commercial rights, the freedom to licence someone else to manufacture your invention on agreed terms, and the right to stop others from manufacturing, using or selling your invention in Australia without your permission.

One thing to keep in mind is that an Australian patent only gives you protection in Australia. If you want protection in other countries, you’ll need to apply for it there.

Want to learn more, including how to apply? Check out our patents page.

Why should I patent my idea?

The granting of a patent gives you:

  • Exclusive commercial rights to your invention — a monopoly in the market
  • Freedom to licence someone else to manufacture your invention on agreed terms, removing the risk that they could steal your idea
  • The right to take legal action that stops others from manufacturing, using and/or selling your invention in Australia without your permission.

Common myths about patents

A patent will cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars

No, it won't cost you that much, even when factoring in any legal services that you might need.

Our fees are quite modest; filing a provisional application costs $110, filing a standard patent is at least $370. There will be additional fees further along in the process, including an annual fee to keep your patent active.

If you decide to use an attorney to help you, there will be additional legal fees. As a guide, most applicants find it costs somewhere between $4,000 and $7,000 to file a provisional application, including legal fees. The cost of converting it to a standard patent will be roughly similar.

You can ask your attorney for an indication of how much it will cost up front.

Timeframes and fees

My provisional patent protects my invention from competitors

A provisional application doesn’t provide you with any IP protection. Rather, it acts as a signal that you intend to file a standard patent application in the future, and you're getting your invention a spot in line now.

Let's imagine that a competitor has submitted a standard application for the same idea before you've submitted your standard patent application. Because you've submitted your provisional application prior to their standard application, you'll have a greater chance of your patent being accepted compared to the competitor.

If you don't end up moving forward with a standard patent, then your competitor will be able to protect the idea first.

I've found an invention that's similar to mine, so that means I won't get a patent

Not necessarily. If it's similar but not quite the same, then you've added one or more points of difference. Whether it's patentable depends on whether your points of difference are adding something new and inventive. If they are, you might still be able to get a patent.

Ask yourself: would someone else add this if they were trying to do what I'm doing? If not, then you can still apply.

There’s no point in getting a patent because the ‘big guys’ will just steal my idea anyway

If you're worrying that big corporations will steal your idea and you won’t have enough money to fight them in court, keep these things in mind:

  • If your invention is protected by a patent, it will deter many businesses from trying to copy it in the first place
  • Very few patent infringement matters ever get to court, with most reaching commercial settlement beforehand
  • If a business does infringe on your idea, having a patent will ensure you get a seat at the negotiating table.

I can protect my patent worldwide in one application

There's no such thing as a ‘worldwide patent’. You can protect your invention in Australia through us, but you'll need to seek patent protection in other countries where you think you'll be selling your product.

If you go to an international market without a patent, you may be at risk of someone stealing your idea.

A patent attorney will steal my idea

Patent attorneys have to abide by a code of conduct and code of ethics which prevents them from:

  • Acquiring intellectual property rights where there's a potential conflict of interest
  • Acting in a deceitful or fraudulent manner.

If you experience issues with a registered patent attorney, you can lodge a complaint with the Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board.

The patent police will make sure no-one infringes my IP

No, there's no patent police. It's your responsibility to ensure that your IP isn't infringed. Keep an eye on competitors' products and do an occasional search online to see if anyone has copied your invention.

You can also engage a patent attorney to keep watch for you.

Prevent infringement of my IP

A patent will automatically make me lots of money

You're unlikely to receive business offers just because you've secured a patent— you'll need to commercialise your idea to add financial value. IP protection will simply protect your idea from being stolen by others in the market.