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Service providers in New Zealand face many intellectual property (IP) considerations. This is because you are operating in a busy market and will want to stand out from others who offer the same services as you. Regardless of the service you provide, this article will step you through three actions service providers can take when it comes to IP. These are to:

  • build your brand;
  • market yourself; and 
  • protect your intellectual property.

Build Your Brand

It is important to build your brand, no matter what service you are offering. This is because your brand provides you and your clients with a base to communicate and engage. It also helps you maintain relationships with your customers because they will remember your brand. Your brand is your intellectual property. There are intellectual property tools available to help you establish and build your brand. These include:

  • trade marks; 
  • your company name; and 
  • copyright.

These intellectual property tools, if used correctly, will provide you with rights and legal protection. 

Trade Marks

The small or significant elements of your brand that you use to distinguish yourself from other businesses may be suitable for a trade mark. 

For example, this could be your logo, jingle or catchphrase. 

A trade mark signals that anything of this kind is your intellectual property. The Intellectual Property Office New Zealand (IPONZ) takes care of most intellectual property rights, including trade marks. You will have to deal with IPONZ if you register your trade mark. A registered trade mark has to be original and unique. An unregistered trade mark has to be original and unique too, but also has to meet other standards to be treated as valid. These standards are:

  • a continued reputation in your service market; and 
  • special recognition by clients. 

Company Name

If you would like to register your business name, you can do so through the New Zealand Companies Office (NZCO). Just like a trade mark, your name will have to be original and unique. 

Copyright 

You are probably already an owner of copyright material. Copyright material refers to creative works. So, for you as a service provider, this could be a jingle, advert or pamphlet. Copyright does not need to be registered in New Zealand. Instead, it exists as soon as you produce the material. 

Market Yourself 

Once you have established your brand, you will need to market yourself so that clients are able to engage with you. You can do this either on your own platform or on a platform that is already set up. There are many websites that provide a link between service providers and clients. 

It will be much easier to market yourself on either of these platforms if you have already set up your intellectual property. You will be able to utilise your company name and trade mark material with the assurance that it is protected. When using your trade mark material on a public platform you can label them with the:

  • ™ symbol, for an unregistered trade mark; or 
  • ® symbol, if it is registered. 

You can use your intellectual property to give yourself a difference over other service providers. You may wish to distribute some of the copyrighted material you have so that clients can see what you can do and are more likely to work with you. You can label your copyright material with the © symbol.

Labelling your intellectual property with symbols if they are available is a good idea because it signals to others that your intellectual property is for your exclusive use. It also gives you a better legal position, because you will be able to say that you have taken steps to show others that the intellectual property is yours. 

Protect Your Intellectual Property

If you think someone is overstepping your intellectual property rights, you will be able to take action against them. As mentioned, you will be in a better position if you have identified, registered and labelled your intellectual property first. 

When it comes to trade marks, you can make a formal complaint to IPONZ and they will hold a hearing on the matter, or if the infringement is serious enough you may need to take the matter to court.

The process is similar if someone begins using your company name without permission. NZCO takes initial complaints on the matter, but you may need to take the matter to court. 

Copyright law is not tied to one entity like IPONZ or NZCO. Therefore, you will usually need to handle a matter in court.

Key Takeaways

Service providers need to consider building their brand by identifying and protecting IP like trade marks and company names. After this, you will be in a better position to market yourself to clients and protect your rights if they are infringed. If you need assistance with your intellectual property, contact LegalVision’s intellectual property lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does protection last if you register your intellectual property?

Trade mark registrations last 15 years. You can register company names for as long as the company is active.

Does it cost to make complaints to IPONZ and NZCO?

It does not cost to make complaints to IPONZ and NZCO. However, it is always best to seek legal advice if you are engaging in a legal conflict. 

What outcomes can you receive if someone infringes on your intellectual property rights?

Depending on the severity of the situation, the court may order an injunction, which will stop the use and any further use of your intellectual property. In some cases, the court may award damages, meaning that you will receive compensation for any loss. 

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.

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