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Copyright covers a wide range of original, creative works, including literary works, sound recordings, films and more. However, as copyright applies automatically, it can be easy to think that your original, creative work is covered by copyright when it is not. Other intellectual property tools exist to protect certain aspects of creative work not covered by copyright. These are:

  • designs;
  • trade marks; and 
  • Māori intellectual property.

Each of these involves creative works that copyright does not protect. This article will step through each of these forms of intellectual property and determine what differentiates them from copyright. 

Design Registration

Design registration protects the visual appearance of a product or object. It protects the appearance of a product and does not cover the functional aspect of the product it is decorating. You must register designs with the Intellectual Property Office New Zealand (IPONZ). IPONZ is in charge of most intellectual property tools, excluding copyright. You can make design registration applications online, and your application should include:

  • a statement of novelty, which sets out what is novel about your design; and 
  • multiple representations, which show the design from different angles. 

Design registration can last up to 15 years if you renew your designs every five years. Once registered, you are the owner of the design registration, giving you ownership rights and protections. These are:

  • rights to use and profit from your design;
  • rights to decide if anyone else can use and profit from your design; and 
  • legal protection against infringement.

Trade Marks

A trade mark is another intellectual property tool that protects original works that identify your brand. As well as protecting a wide range of things that identify your brand such as words or phrases, trade marks also protect creative works such as logos, jingles, colours or shapes. Copyright protection for small creative works like these can be complex. For example, a business logo is typically not covered by copyright. Trade mark protections are similar to design registration. These include:

  • rights to use and profit from your trade mark;
  • rights to decide if anyone else can use and profit from your trade mark; and 
  • legal protection against infringement.

If you think your creative work is a trade mark, then you can register it with IPONZ. You can apply online to register your trade mark. Your work must be original and different from anything else that already exists as a trade mark. You can check the originality of your work on the IPONZ website with their trade mark search. This will ensure that your trade mark is unique in your market. 

You may also have an unregistered trade mark. An unregistered trade mark has similar rights and protections as a registered trade mark, but these can be harder to prove. They must still be original and unique, but they also have to meet extra standards.

You should contact a lawyer if you think you have an unregistered trade mark, as they can be difficult to protect.

Māori Intellectual Property

Intellectual property law protects Mātauranga Māori or Māori knowledge in New Zealand. This includes creative works. As well as protecting Māori knowledge and creativity, it protects te reo Māori. This means that if the creative work you want to register contains a Māori element, you must go through a special process to uphold this protection. Any intellectual property application made to IPONZ that contains Māori elements will be transferred to the Māori Advisory Committee. This is to ensure that Māori culture is preserved and not exploited. 

Curvilinear Designs 

These are creative works that include curved lines or lines that are similar to traditional Māori designs. This can be similar to moko or traditional Māori tattoo, kowhaiwhai or Māori rafter patterns, or whakairo, which are Māori carvings. 

Rectilinear Designs 

This refers to lines similar to tukutuku, which is ornamental panelling, or taniko, which is Māori embroidery. 

Designs Incorporating Māori Objects

Any designs that have incorporated Māori objects. For example, a marae or waka. 

Key Takeaways

Copyright is one of many intellectual property tools that can protect your branding and creative works. However, it is important to remember that copyright cannot protect designs, trade marks and Māori intellectual property. If your creative works fall under these intellectual property categories, you will want to seek out intellectual property protection instead of relying on automatic copyright. If you need assistance in protecting your work, whether through copyright, trade mark or design registration, contact LegalVision’s intellectual property lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use Māori knowledge in my intellectual property?

You may be able to. However, if you register intellectual property with Māori elements or knowledge, the Māori Advisory Committee will assess your application to ensure Māori culture is being preserved and not exploited.

How long will my design registration last?

Design registration in New Zealand lasts for five years, with the possibility to renew for up to a total of 15 years.

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