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To ensure that your jewellery designs and business flourish, you will want to take steps to protect your intellectual property. As your designs are unique and original, intellectual property rights help guard your work against copycats. As your brand grows, the need to protect it grows as well, so it is important to understand intellectual property early on. For some guidance, this article will present steps to protect your intellectual property, specifically for a jewellery designer. 

1. Understand How Your Designs Work As Intellectual Property

As a jewellery designer your jewellery designs are your intellectual property. They are your creative works, and you have ownership rights over them that no one else can access. However, this will only apply if you take the correct steps to safeguard them. In New Zealand, you can register your designs as intellectual property.

The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) oversees design registrations and other forms of intellectual property. A design registration covers artistic works, including original:

  • shapes;
  • patterns;
  • configuration; or
  • ornamentation attached to your product.

Essentially, it is concerned with the visual appearance of anything you create. This may, of course, include your jewellery designs. 

2. Prepare and Register Your Designs

You can apply to IPONZ to have your jewellery designs registered and protected if they meet the relevant criteria. For instance, one of these criteria is that you cannot have publicly disclosed your design before applying. This means you must register your designs before selling or publishing them. However, note that there are some exceptions to this rule, so be sure to look into what may apply to you.

Following that, having a successfully registered design will mean that you are guaranteed certain benefits, such as:

  • exclusive use of your design;
  • the right to permit others to use your design; and
  • legal grounds to take action if your work is victim to copycats.

You can complete the application process on the IPONZ website. For approval, your design application will need:

  • representations from multiple angles that show different perspectives of the design;
  • a title, for example ‘engagement ring’; and
  • a statement of novelty where you must explain how your design is unique from others.

IPONZ will respond to your application within 15 working days, and upon approval, your registration will last five years before needing to be renewed. 

Once your jewellery design is registered, you will be better positioned to defend it if you find someone else is copying your work. If somebody copies your design, you may need to take legal action. It is best to contact a lawyer in this situation.

Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand

Our free Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand guide explains how to register and defend your trade mark registration.

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3. Register Important Trade Marks

Besides protecting the designs that you produce as a jewellery designer, you will need to take steps to protect your brand. This is because you need clients to be able to recognise your business and your work easily. Notably, you may register your business’ name when you set up your business initially. However, this does not automatically give you intellectual property rights. To achieve that, you need to register a trade mark. A trade mark covers anything that you might use to identify your business to others. This could include: 

  • your business name, 
  • logos; or 
  • even a unique colour. 

The iconic colour and packaging of Tiffany & Co is registered as a trade mark by the company and represents both their stunning jewellery designs and their well-known brand. 

So, for you as a jewellery designer looking to protect intellectual property, you may want to register any identifying aspects of your brand. Similarly to a registered design, a trade mark allows you to have exclusive use of your trade mark material and legal grounds to commence action against infringers if needed. If you want to register your trade mark with IPONZ, your trade mark must be original and distinct to be approved, among other criteria.

4. Develop an Effective Licence Agreement 

After you have established your brand and business in the jewellery industry and your jewellery designs are selling, you may start to engage with others. For example, you could be approached by another who would like to sell your product in their store. This could be a great opportunity for you to get some more exposure and clients. 

Therefore, you may want to consider entering into a licence agreement. This legal document provides you with a safe way to allow others to use your intellectual property without impacting your ownership rights. For example, this means that you could allow another store to display your trade marks along with your jewellery designs for customers to purchase. 

A licence agreement is a flexible legal document where you can work with the other party to include or exclude any conditions you like. When engaging with others in a business contract, you should seek legal advice to develop an agreement that best protects your interests.

Key Takeaways

As a jewellery designer, there are steps you can take to protect your work and your business. As such, you may want to consider if design registration is right for your jewellery designs. Additionally, you can implement trade marks to safeguard your jewellery brand. Finally, once your jewellery is taking off, you could enter into a licence agreement to allow others to use your intellectual property to your advantage. If you need help with your intellectual property, our experienced IP lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I label my registered designs?

There is no specific label for registered designs. 

Can I label my trade mark material?

Yes, you can label a registered trade mark with the ® symbol and an unregistered trade mark with the ™ symbol.

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