University of Sydney Handbooks - 2013 Archive

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Intellectual property and copyright

The information below is based on the University of Sydney (Intellectual Property) Rule 2002.

A brief overview of intellectual property and what it means

Intellectual property or, more correctly, intellectual property rights, refers to those rights conferred on authors or creators of the following types of works as defined by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (of which Australia is a member):

  • literary, artistic and scientific works
  • performances of performing artists, phonograms and broadcasts
  • inventions in all fields of human endeavour
  • scientific discoveries
  • industrial designs
  • trademarks, services marks and commercial names and designations.

In Australia, intellectual property rights are dealt with in five distinct categories, these being:

  • copyright, which is regulated by the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)
  • registered designs, which are regulated by the Designs Act 2003 (Cth)
  • patents, which are regulated by the Patents Act 1990 (Cth)
  • trademarks, which can exist at common law, or which, if registered, are regulated by the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth)
  • other statutory regimes for integrated circuits [regulated by the Circuit Layouts Act 1989 (Cth)], plant breeders’ rights [regulated by the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994 (Cth)], and other rights relating to logos and symbols (which are regulated by specific legislation, for example, Olympic insignia).

The common law also recognises other rights, in particular, confidential information and trade secrets.

It is important to note that there can be no intellectual property in an idea itself – it must be manifested in some tangible form.

Moral rights

The concept of moral rights transcends intellectual property rights of an economic nature. It recognises the personal interest of the creator or author in the integrity of the work. This concept has long been recognised in continental European countries, but has only recently been recognised in Australia with the enactment of the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000 (which came into force on 21 December 2000), which recognises three types of moral rights:

  • an author’s right to be identified as the author of a work – known as the right of attribution of authorship;
  • the right of an author to take action against false attribution – known as the right not to have authorship of a work falsely attributed); and
  • an author’s right to object to derogatory treatment of his or her work that prejudicially affects his or her honour or reputation – known as the right of integrity of authorship of a work.

The right of integrity in a work lasts until the author dies, and the other two types of rights remain in force until copyright ceases to subsist in the work in question. Moral rights vest in the author, regardless of whether the work in created in the course of one’s employment. The Act provides for exceptions for infringement of moral rights, based on concepts of reasonableness or consent of the author.

University of Sydney (Intellectual Property) Rule

The Senate has enacted the University of Sydney (Intellectual Property) Rule 2002 pursuant to its rule-making powers under the University of Sydney Act 1989.

More information about intellectual property is available on the Sydnovate website.


  • Details about copyright are outlined in the Copyright guide for students which is available here.
  • Additional information about Copyright and your thesis is available here.
  • For students studying music, Music and Copyright - a guide is available here.