Intellectual Property (IP) protection is core to the work of many businesses and comes in many forms. Whether it’s a trademark, patent or design protection you’re seeking, there’s a good chance every business has to consider their options to protect various elements of their products and brand.
New Zealand offers an extensive range of options for companies looking to protect their inventions and ideas. Find out how to keep your business covered.
Overview IP regulations
New Zealand has a dedicated Intellectual Property Office that offers a range of methods for legally protecting your business ideas and inventions. Notably, the patent New Zealand offers grants people and businesses the sole legal right to something (an idea, service or product) they have created.
Alongside the country’s popular commercial patents for protecting creative businesses, the following is also on offer:
- Trademarks for your business name, logo, and brand
- Copyrights for products like websites, books, and sounds
- Protection for designs, new plant varieties, geographical indications
- Trade secrets – this includes confidential or commercially sensitive information about your business’ strategies and processes, such as customer information and secret recipes.
With the Intellectual Property Office, you can search existing patents and trademarks to see what has already been registered.
Protecting your work
If you’re creating new inventions, designs or ideas, or have a business process that needs appropriate commercial protection, look into applying for one of the above IP types.
All IP types in New Zealand fall under the following legislation, administered by the Intellectual Property Office:
- Patents Act 1953
- Designs Act 1953
- Plant Variety Rights Act 1987
- Trade Marks Act 2002
- Patents Act 2013.
Applying for IP protection
The Intellectual Property Office offers a straightforward process to get the IP protection you’re after. Once you’ve checked that a similar patent, trademark, or other protection type doesn’t already exist for a similar item, you can start your own online application.
The online application process involves receiving preliminary advice on the type of protection you’re seeking, so your business is supported in making the right decisions.
After this, you’ll need to:
- write a patent specification (including a ‘provisional specification’ if you need extra time to develop, research or finance your idea)
- choose your IP type,
- file the application, and
- request an examination by a relevant officer to ensure all requirements are met and make any necessary corrections.
During the process, you can submit, view and keep tabs on relevant documentation for your IP application. This includes getting responses to your examination and compliance reports, logging changes in names and/or addresses, requesting extensions and certificates from the Commissioner.
Application times and costs
Some protections offered by the IP Office are automatically granted, such as company name registration and copyrights. For others like the trademark, patent, or design type, this can take a minimum of 6 months to obtain. The plant variety rights protection type is the longest of the processes, taking around 1-5 years to acquire.
There are various costs associated with the different application types, and with the request for examination. Amending your application also carries extra costs, so it’s important to get it right. You may consider seeking external legal support in order to ensure the strict processes are followed and your business is duly compliant with all requirements.
The associated costs for different applications, and their validation lengths are in the table below (taken from the Intellectual Property Office website).
|IP type||Cost to apply (NZD, GST exclusive)||How long does it last?|
|Patent||$250||Up to 20 years|
|Trademark||$150 per class||Up to 10 years|
|Copyright||Free||Depends on category|
|Design||$100||Up to 15 years|
|Trade secret||Usually free||As long as the information is not discussed|
|Geographical indications||$5,000||5 years|
|Company name registration||Typically under $200||As long as you are trading under the registered name|
|Domain name registration||Typically under $100||Typically operate on 1-5 year leasing plans|
|Plant variety rights||Minimum $900||20-23 years|
Once obtained, your protection usually has a shelf life. If you want to keep using it past the time specified above, you’ll need to connect again with the Intellectual Property Office to go through the corresponding renewal process.
Māori IP protection
New Zealand offers special provisions for the purpose of protecting the culture and creativity of the country’s indigenous Māori community. These provisions enable these communities and local authorities to block registration for trademarks or patents that would be considered offensive by these communities and their principles.
Support for international protection standards
At this point, patents acquired in New Zealand are only applicable within its borders. However, there are a number of international agreements that New Zealand is subscribed to that makes it easier for businesses to apply for appropriate IP protection overseas:
- The Berne Convention
- Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
- Universal Copyright Convention 1952
- The Patent Cooperation Treaty
- International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV)
- The Madrid Protocol (mentioned further below).
New Zealand is one of 192 members of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This is a self-funded global forum is a branch under the United Nations. WIPO supports and drives members towards reaching consensus on IP standards. It aims to develop a cross-border rules-based system on empowering innovators and creative industries.
With this, countries can arrange their local IP standards around a consistent model, making it easier for expanding businesses to adjust to the IP environment and requirements in other international markets. WIPO administers the Madrid Protocol, which, like the Patent Cooperation Treaty, allows people and businesses to apply for trademarks in over 100 signatory countries with one single application. This can be done within New Zealand.
At Biz Latin Hub, we offer a range of back-office services to support foreign businesses and investors to get started the right way in New Zealand.
If you’re ready to move into the market, and need guidance by local legal experts, or due diligence support, you can depend on our experienced New Zealand business team, based in the country. We can also provide supporting filing applications for the right type of intellectual property protection.
Email us on [email protected] for more information and personalised support for your business.