A Look at Copyright, Trademarks and Patents

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Intellectual property (IP) laws protect intangible assets owned by you or your business including trademarks, designs, photography, patents, secret processes, formulas and more. These laws are designed to protect individuals and organisations, encouraging them to create and innovate.

Along with a number of specific intellectual property laws, Australia is a signatory to a number of international agreements that offer IP protections overseas. Below we look at key examples of IP law and circumstances where knowing your rights can get confusing, such as on social media.


Creative works are automatically covered by copyright in Australia, with the protection lasting for 70 years after the death of the creator in most cases. This includes artistic works, photography, music, film, sound recordings, writing, blueprints, computer programs, logos and designs.

When any of the above creations are commissioned, the individual or organisation who commissioned the work will generally take ownership of the copyright. Copyright law does not protect ideas, styles, concepts or techniques except in a few special circumstances. If you’re unsure whether copyright applies to your work, consult a law firm with experience in intellectual property law.

Who Owns the Copyright on Social Media?

You do not forfeit your copyright when you upload an image to Facebook or Instagram. The terms of use on both platforms state that you own all the content and information you publish on them. The caveat is that those platforms have a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free transferable, sub-licence to use any content you upload.

The licence continues for as long as you have an account or until you delete that content from the platform. Granting a licence does not prevent you exercising your rights; it just means you are also allowing those platforms to use your IP.


A trademark isn’t just a logo, nor is it a business or domain name. It’s any way of identifying a unique product or service. It can be a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, shape, picture, movement, aspect of packaging or a combination of these.

Unlike copyright, trademark protections are not automatic. You have to register them to gain exclusive rights to use, licence and sell that mark. Doing so is essential for maximising its value as a marketing tool for your business.

Can You Trademark a Hashtag?

Hashtag trademark registrations have to follow the same rules as other trademarks. This means they have to meet the definition of a trademark under section 17 of the Trade Marks Act 1995 which is “a sign used, or intended to be used, to distinguish goods or services dealt with or provided in the course of trade by a person from goods or services so dealt with or provided by any other person.”


Patents legally protect you from third parties manufacturing, using and/or selling an invention you’ve created in Australia. It can also be used to license someone to manufacture an invention on agreed terms.

Patents can be complex to apply for. Your invention must be new, able to be made or used in an industry and involve either an inventive step (standard patent) or innovative step (innovation patent). If you want to obtain patent protection for your invention you should avoid sharing any details of it with anyone until you’ve filed your patent application.

If you have any concerns about copyright, trademarks or patents, consult our experienced IP lawyers in Brisbane. As members of the Queensland Law Society, our lawyers will examine your individual circumstances and offer timely advice on the best pathway forward.

At Phoenix Law, we specialise in Family Law, Personal Injury Law, Migration Law, Commercial Law, Property Law, Litigation Dispute Resolution, Estate Planning, International Trade Law, Intellectual Property Law and Workplace Relations Law. We speak your language, with a team of multilingual lawyers ensuring our clients get the best possible understanding of Australian law. Call our law firm today on 07 3180 0908 or contact us online.