Copyright and Trade Secrets

Copyright and Trade Secrets


Copyright protection is provided under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) and gives the owner exclusive rights to license others in regard to copying the work, performing it in public, broadcasting it, publishing it and making an adaptation of the work. Since it is automatic in Australia, there is no official registry or application process for copyright protection. The moment an idea or creative concept is documented, on paper or electronically, it is automatically protected by copyright, and is enforceable against any infringers.


The duration of protection for copyright works that have been published generally lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator.



A trade secret is both a type of IP and a strategy for protecting your IP as it can provide effective protection for some technologies, know-hows and confidential information.


A trade secret is appropriate when it’s difficult to copy a product. The best known example of a trade secret is that of the Coca-Cola recipe. It never applied for patent protection, so it was never required to disclose the formula. One disadvantage is that trade secrets do not provide any legal security against an independent competitor inventing the same object.


Relying on trade secrets is useful when the idea is unlikely to result in registrable rights or you wish to retain exclusive use beyond the maximum lifespan of a patent (20 years).



A confidentiality agreement is a legally binding contract. If you disclose confidential information to another person under a confidentiality agreement, they are required to keep that information secret and confidential, and not misuse it.


A confidentiality agreement is used to stop employees from revealing secret knowledge during and after their employment. You should back up your trade secrets with signed confidentiality agreements with every person who has knowledge of the secret such as your employees or business partners. That way if an agreement is breached, you will have evidence of what was agreed to and what is protected under the law.


For more information, call us today on (02) 9233 1411 or send us an online enquiry.

Common Questions

Who owns copyright between an author and a copyright owner?

An author is the person who creates a copyright work. A copyright owner is the person or company which owns the rights in a work or other subject-matter. If a copyright work is made by an employee during the course of their employment, the copyright vests with the employer.

How do I prove ownership of copyright if there is no system of registration?

If there is a dispute about ownership of copyright in a work, it may need to be resolved through negotiation or by a court. If the dispute is brought into a court, the court will consider all relevant evidence including evidence of the parties and of witnesses, previous drafts, sketches, working drawings etc.