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Starting a business can be an intensive process, and there can be a lot for you to keep track of. When setting up your business, evaluating your intellectual property needs to be something that you do reasonably early on. To clarify, intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, which usually would be the ideas you create and use for your business. Notably, these ideas are important business assets. They represent the time and effort you put into your business functioning and its creations. As a result, you should look into the legal protections available to you for your intellectual property when starting your business. Therefore, this article will go through some intellectual property checks when setting up your New Zealand business.

1. Determine How Intellectual Property Fits Into Your Business Plan

As part of your startup process, having a business plan is a crucial aspect. This document or framework sets out your expectations for your business and other vital factors. Consequently, you should also detail your intellectual property expectations in this plan. Certainly, how you use intellectual property will depend on the nature of your business and any subsequent legal protections that you need.

Furthermore, some intellectual property assets are common to most businesses, including:

  • business names;
  • logos; or
  • staff business knowledge.

Make sure that you know what qualifies as intellectual property at your business to protect it accordingly.

For instance, a business that operates locally will have different intellectual property concerns than a global company. Another example, a business that creates intellectual property for its clients (such as copyrighted literary works) will have different concerns than one that offers advisory services.

Having a plan from the beginning that you can adapt later on will allow for better intellectual property management, especially when deciding what intellectual property rights you may want to register.

2. Check That No Similar Intellectual Property Already Exists

Some intellectual property rights, like copyright, exist automatically upon creation. Therefore, you do not need to register it. However, there are intellectual property rights that you can register for protection, such as:

These give you a legal right to the exclusive use of your intellectual property, and this means you can:

  • use it yourself;
  • profit off of it;
  • sell it; and
  • prevent others from using or selling it without your permission.

When you want to register one of these rights, a key requirement is that no one else has registered that article as their intellectual property. If you attempt to register someone else’s intellectual property as your own, not only would your registration likely fail, you may create problems for your business.

Therefore, you should use tools like ONECheck to see if your brand already exists. These can include your:

  • business name;
  • logo;
  • business Social media usernames;
  • domain names; or
  • product names.

3. Establishing Important Brand Assets as Trade Marks

As the above paragraphs detail, certain parts of your business would be good to register for formal intellectual property protection. In particular, this means registering assets that embody your business’ brand, such as your name or logo.

While not intellectual property in some cases, you should also register a domain name early on to make sure no one else steals your desired URL.

Customers will recognise and remember your business through these signs, which you can register as trade marks. Trade marks can protect a variety of things, as long as they are unique to your business, including a:

  • business or product name;
  • colour;
  • slogan;
  • logo;
  • shape;
  • sound; or
  • combination of these.

To register, you need to apply to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ), and they will assess your application. For this purpose, you will need to specify which goods or services your trade mark applies to and pay the corresponding fees. Successfully registering a trade mark can take more than six months, so you should start your application sooner rather than later.

4. Have Confidentiality Protections for Developing Intellectual Property

If you are developing intellectual property to launch a business startup, you need to make sure you have appropriate measures to protect both its:

  • security; and
  • confidentiality.

You cannot register some intellectual property rights, such as patents and designs, if they have already been disclosed or exist in the market. 

For example, say that you have been developing a new invention that you plan to unveil when you officially launch your business. If someone else registers that invention for a patent or sells it before you do, you will not be able to register it for a patent yourself.

Therefore, you must put confidentiality clauses in any contracts you have with contractors or partners before registration. Ideally, you want to make sure as few people as possible know about your unpublished and developing business innovations so that you can reap their benefits yourself.

Key Takeaways

Intellectual property will be a crucial part of your business, so make sure you get on top of it from the beginning. If you would like more information or help with intellectual property when starting your business, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property refers to the ideas and innovations within your business that bring it value. They are intangible assets and can range from your business logo to your unique recipes.

How do I protect my intellectual property?

How you protect your intellectual property will depend on what it is. Some intellectual property rights are automatic, like copyright. On the other hand, others you will need to register, like patents. When you register, you get exclusive rights to your intellectual property.

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