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As a business owner, it is crucial to use intellectual property (IP) protections for key assets of your business, like its name, product and trade secrets. IP is fundamental for most businesses and is a tool for creativity, innovation, and growth. By protecting your IP, you and your business can gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. However, it can be a difficult decision to decide what IP needs protecting in your business. This article will set out five key IP assets to consider protecting and how to do so. 

1. Protecting Your Business Name and Brand

A major decision for your business is deciding what its name should be. Later on, your business may also develop its brand in other respects, like a slogan or a logo. These assets are central to your business’ brand and crucial to protect with IP. 

The first step to protect these assets is to check whether other people or businesses have registered them as trade marks in themselves. If they have, you may be at risk of breaching another person’s IP rights, which you should avoid. You can use a range of search engines to do this in New Zealand, particularly the Trade Mark Check and searching the New Zealand Companies Register.

If you have not secured your business’ name or other key brand aspects, you should protect them through a trade mark registration. This gives you exclusive use of the name and prevents other businesses from doing so. These trade mark registrations are crucial in protecting your brand and business identity. They should also increase in value as your business grows and succeeds. 

2. Protecting Your Innovation

While a trade mark protects your business name and brand identity, it does not cover the specific product or service that your business provides. If you create a product or service that is novel or innovative, you may want to consider protecting your invention with a patent.

A patent provides your business with the exclusive right to capitalise on that invention for a certain period. This means that, without your consent, others cannot use your invention by:

  • making it;
  • selling it;
  • using it; or
  • otherwise commercialising it.

A patent gives you a legal right to stop others from using your invention for up to 20 years. It typically takes six months (or more if the idea is particularly complicated) to acquire a patent in New Zealand. Hence, obtaining a patent is often a good IP asset to think about early in your business. 

3. Protecting Your Product Design

If your product’s visual appearance contributes to its uniqueness in some way, you should protect that appearance with a registered design. This will help your business prevent others from copying that design and producing ‘knock-offs’ without permission. Counterfeits are a massive issue for many businesses, and protecting a design is a savvy way to counter that issue.

These protections last up to 15 years in New Zealand and also take around six months to acquire after you apply. 

4. Protecting Your Trade Secrets

You should seek to protect any confidential business information that gives your business a competitive advantage. This information is typically classed as trade secrets and can include products and processes that do not have patent protection. They are not ‘registered’ but can be protected with contracts (including non-disclosure agreements and employment agreements).

5. Protecting Your Original Works

If you create original work as part of your new business, New Zealand copyright laws will automatically protect your work. Original works come in a variety of mediums. This includes artwork, books, websites, computer programs, drawings, plays, films, music, and sound recordings. You may use the copyright symbol © to show that you claim copyright concerning a particular work, but you do not need to.

Key Takeaways

IP is a valuable asset for businesses, and strategic IP is essential to protect. Different assets require protection in different ways. Some critical assets to consider protecting include your business’ name, brand details, innovation, product design, trade secrets, and original works. You can formally register trade marks, patents and product designs for some of these assets and enforce those IP rights against others who infringe them. 

If you have any further questions about protecting your business’ IP assets, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

FAQs

How do I protect my business name?

While you should register your name under the Companies Register, the best way to protect your business name is through a trade mark registration. 

How do I protect my new product from being counterfeited?

If the new product is innovative in some way, a patent is the best way to protect a product from counterfeits. Registered trade marks and product designs can also be effective, depending on what makes the product distinctive. 

How do I stop someone from copying my original work?

Your original work is automatically protected by copyright law in New Zealand. You can use the copyright symbol © to emphasise that you claim copyright protection for a particular body of work.

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