Exploiting your Invention: The Story of Innovation and Invention through Patents and Trade Marks

New ideas, innovations and discoveries are protected by legal documents known as patents.

Belonging to the area of law referred to as intellectual property, the economic and moral protection of ideas and designs has a long history, dating from a Venetian law in the 1400s and adopted into British Law by the Statute of Monopolies in 1623. So what exactly is a patent? Auspat Australia provides the following explanation –“A patent is a right granted for any device, substance, method or process which is new, inventive and useful. A patent is legally enforceable and gives the owner the exclusive right to commercially exploit the invention for the life of the patent. This is not automatic – you must apply for a patent to obtain exclusive rights to exploit your invention.” All patent applications were transferred from the previous colonies to the new Commonwealth of Australia in 1904.

State Library of Queensland has The Australian Official Journal of Patents from 1904 onwards. Deep in these large volumes are the ideas of many – some became a reality, while many did not make it past the germination of an idea. Patent journals can include drawings, specifications and detailed outlines of the proposed innovation. It is not unusual to find chemical structure drawings to illustrate the components of a suggested product, and detailed technological specifications with measurements to illustrate a proposed new machine.

There are also trade marks in The Australian Official Journal of Patents. Trade marks consist of iconic illustrations and words that denote brand identification. Well known Australian brands all need to be protected by an application for a trade mark. However, brands from overseas are also registered in Australia to protect the use of the trade mark or product in this part of the world – examples from the official journal are Moet champagne and Singer Sewing Machines.

State Library has bound and kept each of the journals, and they are available to be retrieved from storage via the One Search Catalogue. Court cases involving patent and trade mark disputes were also reported in The Australian Official Journal of Patents, Trade Marks and Design. All manner of machines were included, like the Cane and Prickly Pear Cutting Machine invented by Alfred Cantle of Yandina Queensland in 1908.

Holden cars made in Australia from 1948 required a trade mark. The 1954 update to the trade mark is similar and will be very familiar to many.

Holden trade marks, Trade Mark 94084 and Trade Mark 121296, IP Australia

Holden trade marks, 1948 and 1954, IP Australia

However, patents and trade marks cover much more than industrial machinery and technology. The journals illustrate that many of the products found in the supermarket, or that are a part of our daily lives – from bus and taxi cab design to cereal products and ice cream – are covered by patents and trade marks.

A Queensland example of a commercial design is the illustration in The Australian Official Journal of Patents of the business design for a bus line in Sandgate in 1934. John Truven Ford of Yundah Street Sandgate specified that his motor buses for the conveyance of passengers would have blue and white bands on the side, and a blue roof. Taxi cab designs and colour schemes were also included in the official journal.

John Truven Ford bus design, Australian Official Journal of patents, trade marks and designs 1 Nov 1934 p.1535

John Truven Ford bus design, Australian Official Journal of patents, trade marks and designs 1 Nov 1934 p.1535

There are many registered designs and patents for everyday food items, such as ice cream. Each variation or brand of ice cream took out a protective patent or trade mark. The trade mark for Pauls Polar Perfection Ice Cream (P P) for Pauls Milk and Ice Cream, Stanley Street South Brisbane was registered in May of 1934 and is illustrated below.

Pauls Polar Perfection Ice Cream trade mark, Australian Official journal of patents trade marks and designs 31 May 1934 p.685

Pauls Polar Perfection Ice Cream trade mark, Australian Official journal of patents trade marks and designs 31 May 1934 p.685

Literary copyright was also listed in the official journal, including the titles of newspapers, magazines and the copyright to printed literary works. In 1934, the title Australian Women’s Weekly was protected by a literary copyright application, at the beginning of its publishing history.

Search online


The Australian Government provides a helpful free database to enable searching for patents and trade marks. Auspat is available online.

Patent law is complex and requires interpretation. Auspat provides Australian patents, but insists that professional advice should accompany any application of, or interpretation of, the material included in their database.

Using a Queensland example, a search on the word “Jenyns” will find the patent for the Queensland brand of corset so popular in the first half of the twentieth century. The patent application was taken out on 15 November 1912 by Sarah Ann Jenyns of George Street, Brisbane.

State Library databases relevant to patent and trade mark law

Search One Search on State Library’s website to discover online databases that may be useful. Membership of State Library of Queensland is necessary to access databases offsite. Membership is free and easily obtained. Learn about our databases and choose the subject of interest – for example, Law. Here you will find links to LexisNexis and other databases.

State Library exhibitions featuring examples of innovation and invention

Magnificent Makers is an intriguing exploration of innovation and invention in Queensland from the late 1800s to the present day. Discover the lives and works of a group of remarkable Queenslanders who thought outside the box to craft pioneering creations. Using the technology available to them at the time, they made significant developments in the areas of education, sport, leisure, clothing, photography, medicine, and scientific research. Magnificent Makers draws on State Library’s rich collections to explore the lives of these relatively unknown Queensland innovators through photographs, drawings, blueprints and objects. The exhibition runs until 3 June 2018. Phillip Bacon Heritage Gallery, Level 4, State Library, Stanley Place, South Bank.

More information

Auspat – https://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/patents

One Search – http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au

Membership – http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/membership/how-to-join

Databases – http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/search/eresources/search-databases

Ask Us service – http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/ask-us

Magnificent Makers exhibition – http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/calevents/general/exhibitions/magnificent-makers/magnificent-makers

Christina Ealing-Godbold, Research Librarian

Information Services