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As an interior designer, you need to have both a creative and commercial mind. As well as creating interior designs for clients, you are also building your own brand. Because of this, there are considerations to take when it comes to the intellectual property of interior designers. There are steps you can take to identify your intellectual property and protect it. You will then be in a position to take action if someone infringes your intellectual property rights. This article will set out the different types of intellectual property that interior designers are likely to encounter. It will also explain how to set clear boundaries with clients regarding your intellectual property. 

Trade Marks

If you are establishing your own business or brand as an interior designer you will want to consider trade marks as part of your intellectual property. A trade mark can protect the brand elements that you use to distinguish your product, goods or services from others in your market. This includes words, logos, shapes, colours, sounds, smells or any combination of these. A trade mark will give you:

  • exclusive access to use and profit from your intellectual property;
  • exclusive power to determine who can use and profit from your intellectual property; and
  • legal rights if someone infringes your intellectual property rights. 

A registered trade mark is registered through the Intellectual Property Office New Zealand (IPONZ). You can make an application on the IPONZ website to have your trade mark registered. To gain approval, your trade mark will need to be original and distinct in your market. Once registered, you can mark your intellectual property with the ® symbol. A registered trade mark lasts for 10 years before it can be renewed. 


Design registration can protect the visual appearance of your product. This can be the shape, pattern or any external appearance of your products. Once registered, you will have:

  • exclusive access to use and profit from your intellectual property;
  • exclusive power to determine who can use and profit from your intellectual property; and
  • legal rights if someone infringes your intellectual property rights. 

You can register your design with IPONZ via an online application. Designs must be original and novel. The application for a design requires a statement of novelty, where you must outline what makes your design different and innovative. It also requires representations. These should show your design from different perspectives. 

You may need to register a design during your work as an interior designer if you create a new pattern for something that you think is unique and original to you. If you would like to be the only person who can market this pattern to your clients and profit from it, you should consider registering it. 


Copyright applies automatically in New Zealand and does not require registration. It covers creative works that are original. Copyright lasts for your lifetime plus 50 years. You can label your copyright material with the © symbol. People may only use your copyright material without your consent if it is for news reporting, critique or educational purposes. 

When to Use a Licence Agreement 

A licence agreement allows you and the people you are working with to use the same intellectual property for a mutual benefit. It is essentially a contract that gives someone permission to use another person’s intellectual property. The licence agreement can be flexible to the terms you and the other parties want. This can include where, when and how the intellectual property is used. It does not have an impact on the ownership rights of the intellectual property. As an interior designer, you may wish to enter into a licence agreement to ensure that there are clear boundaries when it comes to the use of intellectual property that is yours or someone else’s. 

Key Takeaways 

Interior designers should consider which type of intellectual property their brand or work may fall under. You may wish to register or label your intellectual property to protect it. Additionally, if you are working with others, you can enter into a licence agreement to protect your intellectual property. If you would like help with protecting your intellectual property as an interior designer, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an assignment of intellectual property?

When you assign your intellectual property to someone else, you are essentially selling it to them. Ownership will transfer from you to them.

Is copyright legally enforceable?

Yes, copyright is legally enforceable under copyright law.

How much does it cost to register a trade mark?

It costs $100 for each class you wish to register your trade mark under.

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