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Copywriters pave the way for other businesses to create and build their brand. However, there are still steps that you can take as a copywriter to protect your intellectual property. As a copywriter, you have to protect your business and the intellectual property you create for clients. Copywriters are often creating different forms of content. This means that there are different forms of intellectual property to consider to protect yourself. The most common forms of intellectual property a copywriter will encounter are trade marks, copyright and designs. Additionally, you may be a party to a licence agreement when you use others’ intellectual property in the course of your work.

This article will describe these forms of intellectual property and how they relate to a copywriter. It will also set out how to register your content if you wish to do so and protect it from then on. 

Trade Mark

A trade mark is a way for you to signal to other businesses that the content you have created is yours. It protects aspects of your brand such as:

  • words;
  • logos; 
  • shapes; 
  • colours; 
  • sounds; 
  • smells; or
  • any combination of these.

These must be original to be considered a trade mark. For you, as a copywriter, you are creating this kind of content for branding your and your clients’ businesses. If you are looking to protect your own work so that others know it is yours and cannot use it, it is best to use a trade mark. 

You can have a registered or unregistered trade mark. Both give you the right to use your trade mark exclusively and decide who else can use it. A registered trade mark can be labelled with the ® symbol and lasts for 10 years. A registered trade mark is much easier to enforce if you find someone else using your intellectual property and infringing on your rights. For an unregistered trade mark to be enforceable, it must have a reputation within the market that is strong enough for customers to recognise it is yours and yours alone. You can label unregistered trade marks with the ™ sign. 

You can register your trade mark with the Intellectual Property Office New Zealand (IPONZ). You must first search the existing trade marks in New Zealand to ensure that yours is original. You can then complete the online application, which requires you to determine the owner and class you wish to register under. There are different kinds of trade mark classes you can choose from. IPONZ has a tool on their website which can help you determine which class your trade mark falls under. 

Copyright 

Like a trade mark, copyright will give you the right to use and benefit from your intellectual property. It will also allow you to decide who can do the same. Copyright protects original creative works. For example, this can be songs, books, paintings, literature, scripts, websites or computer programs. Copyright is not for works that only concern the external appearance of a design. This will instead fall under design registration. 

You cannot register copyright in New Zealand. Your protection is automatically applied under New Zealand copyright law, and you can label your copyright with the © symbol. Copyright lasts for your lifetime plus 50 years. 

As a copywriter, you may be using other people’s copyrighted material for your work. There are a limited number of situations where you can do this. They are if you intend to use copyrighted work in news reporting or for educational purposes. 

Design

A design is another type of intellectual property you could encounter as a copywriter if you create content in a creative way for a client. Designs that can be registered are: 

  • shapes; 
  • configurations; 
  • patterns; or 
  • anything concerned with the external appearance of a product or article. 

Design registration gives you exclusive intellectual property rights and protections. To be approved by IPONZ, your design must be original and secret. This means it cannot yet be in the public domain before registration. The online application with IPONZ requires you to submit the design from multiple angles and a statement outlining how the design is novel. Design registrations last five years, and you can renew registration for up to 15 years.

Licence Agreements 

A licence agreement allows one person to use another’s intellectual property for a specific use. It does not have an impact on the ownership rights of intellectual property. During your work as a copywriter, you will likely have to use other people’s intellectual property to create content for them. It is a good idea to enter into a licence agreement with them, as the agreement provides clear boundaries for when, where and how you can use the intellectual property. It reduces the risk of misusing any intellectual property and getting into trouble. 

There are different forms of licence agreements, and each can have varied terms and conditions depending on what you and your client need. It is best to seek legal advice if you are entering into a licence agreement with someone else. 

Key Takeaways 

You need to take steps to protect your intellectual property when you are working for yourself and your clients. The best way to do this is to recognise what type of intellectual property you are using and register, label and protect it. If you need assistance, LegalVision’s intellectual property lawyers can help. Contact us at 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to register a trade mark?

You can register your trade mark for $100 for each class you wish to register it with.

How much does it cost to register a design?

You can register a design for $100.

Is there a way for me to label my registered design?

There is no standard label for registered designs like there is for trade marks or copyright.

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