Legal Information


Contracts (or agreements) do not have to be in writing and signed to be legally binding. A contract is formed when the following elements are present:

  • offer and acceptance
  • consideration or value
  • intention to create legal relations, and
  • certainty of terms.

Once these elements are met, a contract may be created.

Even if no contract has been formed, if a party has made a representation to another party and that other party has relied on it to its detriment, the first party may be prevented from departing from this representation.

When dealing with external parties, you should make always make it clear that UniSA will only once both parties have signed an agreement.

Independent Contractors vs employees

When engaging an individual to provide services to the University as an independent contractor, there is a risk that the person could be construed as an employee. If such a relationship is held to be an employer-employee relationship, the University will be at risk of penalties for not satisfying its taxation, superannuation and other obligations as an employer.

In determining whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor, various factors are considered. Refer to the FS28 form for a list of these factors.

If the person should be an employee, consult your HR Officer for assistance in setting up the relevant employment contracts.  If the person is an independent contractor, a contract for services will be required.

Employment/Industrial relations

If you have a query regarding employment or industrial relations law, you should in the first instance contact your local HR Officer or Human Resources.


If you have a query regarding insurance you should contact the University's Insurance Team.

Freedom of Information

The University is required to comply with Freedom of Information legislation. If you receive a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, consult the University's FOI Officer.

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is the result of an individual's intellectual endeavours and is capable of being protected by legal rights. Intellectual property rights are generally monopoly rights guided by economic principles: the desire to encourage people to undertake intellectual and economic investments by rewarding them with monopoly rights over the creative outputs of their activities. As such, intellectual property rights are intangible assets which can be bought and sold (assigned), rented (licensed) and defended like other forms of property.


Copyright is an automatic right of protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works, and other works such as films, broadcasts, multimedia and computer programs. Copyright law is governed by the Copyright Act 1968 (Commonwealth).

Copyright gives the owner a bundle of exclusive rights to copy, adapt, broadcast and perform the copyright material. However, the Copyright Act does provide some limited exceptions to infringement of copyright.

Copyright protects the expression of the work. It does not protect the actual information contained in the work. So if you were to publish an article revealing the details of a great invention, the expression of words used will be protected but not the invention itself.


A patent is a right granted for any device, substance, method or process which is new, inventive and useful. You cannot patent artistic creations, mathematical models, plans, schemes or purely mental processes. Patents are not automatic, you must apply for the patent protection. However, a patent will not be granted if the invention has had previous public disclosure (e.g. through publications or simple disclosure of information).

Patents provide the owner with the exclusive rights to exploit the invention described in the patent, generally for up to 20 years. Protection is only limited to the Territory (country) in which the Patent is granted.

Confidential information

Confidential information is any information which is not in the public domain. There is no formal process to protect confidential information. While it is confidential, only those who know about it are able to exploit it. If confidential information is released it automatically becomes available for anybody to use and exploit. Confidential information is valuable as long as it is kept confidential.

Obligations of confidentiality are often contained in contracts between parties exchanging confidential information. However, even if there is no contract, a party who is in receipt of information which it knows or ought to have known is confidential is under an obligation of confidence.


A design relates to the visual appearance of a product (e.g. shape, configuration, pattern, ornamentation). A design can be registered and protected under the Designs Act, but it must be new (i.e. not previously published) and distinctive. Registered designs do not grant protection over the feel of the product, what it is made from or how it works.


A trademark is used to distinguish the goods and services of one trader from those of another. A trademark may consist of words, symbols, pictures, sounds, smells or a combination of these. Generally trademarks are required to be registered, however rights can be established through use.

A registered trademark gives the owner a right to exclusively use, licence or sell it within Australia for the goods and services for which it is registered. Registering a Trade Mark gives the owner the legal right to take action against any other person or business that tries to use it to provide goods and services that are similar to the goods or services registered under the Trade Mark.

All Trademarks registered by UniSA are available here.

Circuit layout rights and Plant breeders rights

Circuit layout rights automatically protect original layout designs for integrated circuits and computer chips. There is no requirement for registration. The owner of an original circuit layout has exclusive rights to copy the layout in material form, make integrated circuits from the layout and exploit it commercially in Australia.

Plant breeders rights protect new varieties of plants. These rights must be registered.

Infringements of IP

If you are contacted by a third party alleging breach of their intellectual property rights, you must immediately refer the matter to your Head of School or Director and to UniSA Legal or, in the case of copyright, to the University's Copyright Officer.

Similarly, if you are aware of any third party infringing the University's intellectual property rights, you must also bring this to the attention of your Head of School or Director and to UniSA Legal.


At the University of South Australia, we collect, use, share and maintain personal information for a variety of reasons.  The University respects the privacy of the personal information of its students, staff and others by adhering to the privacy laws. 

The Privacy Policy describes how the University holds, uses and discloses information that it collects, and must be followed by all University employees at all times. The University’s Privacy Policy can be viewed here.

Have a question? For further useful information about Privacy please see Privacy FAQ's (pdf).

Copyright Services

Copyright Services can assist staff with:

  1. their selection and use of third party copyrighted works for use within the University's teaching, learning and administrative programs or in the creation of original works by University staff
  2. providing prescribed notices which must be displayed on individual works copied or communicated for the educational purposes of the University
  3. website take down requests, where a staff member suspects a copyright infringement, or breach of licence or contract, for material being communicated or reproduced on the University of South Australia network without permission, and
  4. other copyright queries.

A comprehensive range of resources and downloads is available from the University of South Australia Copyright website. Authentication is required to access these pages.

For more information about copyright, please contact the University Copyright Officer.