Types of intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) arises from the creation of an idea. Anytime you create something new and original you are producing IP.

The main types of IP are summarised below. Find more detailed information on each in the menu on the left or by clicking on the diagrams.


Protects the owner’s original expression of an idea when put in material form


Protects the overall visual appearance of new and distinctive products


Protects signs that distinguish goods or services of one trader from those of another


Protects the functions or features of a device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful

Registered and unregistered IP

Registered IP refers to ideas and discoveries that can be registered with IP Australia and includes inventions, designs and trademarks. These registrations give you the exclusive right to determine who can use your IP and how it can be used. They give you the opportunity to sell, licence, promote or develop your product while limiting competition from other businesses or individuals for set periods. They also reduce the chance of your idea being replicated and passed off as those of a rival trader.

There are also types of IP that are not registered. Copyright, which is the protection of the expression of an idea (eg in writing, art forms, and music), is automatically protected when it is created and does not need to be registered. Trade secrets, which is when the owner decides not to tell anyone about their idea or discovery, also does not need to be registered as it is a secret.

Registered IP

Un-registered IP