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If you run an e-commerce business, your goods are accessible to the whole world through the internet. This can be both a good and a bad thing in terms of intellectual property. On the one hand, your goods or services are more accessible for a global audience, but, on the other, this spread can mean your e-commerce business is at greater risk of intellectual property infringement. One way to avoid these problems is to consider what intellectual property measures are right for you to distinguish and grow your business. This article will discuss various intellectual property (IP) considerations to distinguish and protect your e-commerce business operating in New Zealand. 

Identifying Valuable Intellectual Property Assets

Intellectual property refers to your e-commerce business’ unique and distinctive ideas, which you can own like other business assets. Before launch, you need to identify what these assets are and how you can protect them. There are many different types of intellectual property. They include:

You will most likely be concerned with the intellectual property that applies to your online business matters, such as trade marks and copyright. 

Registering and Labelling Your Intellectual Property

Once you have identified your intellectual property, you need to determine what rights to register or label. For example, you do not need to register copyright, but you must register trade marks and other kinds of intellectual property. Consider how best to do this, especially for content users may share outside of your controlled spaces, such as social media.

Additionally, you should label your trade marks as well. However, you will likely need to register these marks to gain the best protection. A trade mark refers to any sign used to identify your business, which can include:

  • business names;
  • logos;
  • slogans; or
  • other identifying signs.

When you successfully register this intellectual property right with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ), you identify your property to others and protect it. This is one of the best ways to protect your e-commerce brand.

Additionally, you can label your registered trade mark with the ® symbol. However, you will need to determine the best way of using this symbol for informing online users of your rights. For instance, in all official online business branding, include the ® symbol next to your business name if you have registered trade mark rights covering it.

One of the benefits of registering your trade mark is legal protection if someone infringes on your intellectual property rights. Others include the power to decide who and when others can use and benefit from your trade mark. 

Distinguishing Your Intellectual Property

E-commerce businesses have become increasingly popular in recent years. Therefore, to stand out in a saturated market, you should identify:

  • what intellectual property assets you hold that are unique; and
  • protection measures for that intellectual property.

Crucially, you need to ensure your brand is not too similar to another e-commerce business and label your intellectual property appropriately. As a result, you can signal to others that it is yours. For your convenience, there are tools available for you to search other businesses’ intellectual property against your own to determine what already exists in the market.

Trade Mark Searches

IPONZ is in charge of monitoring and registering intellectual property in New Zealand. With their online search tool, you can search for any current registered or pending trade marks similar to yours. 

When using the trade mark search, you will be able to search using two filters. These are: 

  • word or slogan checks; and 
  • logo or image checks.

You can also filter your search even further by certain goods and services classes. This can help you find trade marks that are relevant to your business.

Pursuing Intellectual Property Infringement

Once you have established your intellectual property rights, you need to develop mechanisms for protecting those rights on an ongoing basis. If you think someone has infringed your intellectual property rights, it is best to seek legal advice. There are options you can take to have these infringements investigated and actioned. 

However, a major consideration will be how far you will go in pursuing copiers and other infringement. Some cases will be more serious than others, so make sure you prioritise vigorous enforcement of severe infringement.

Drafting Appropriate Legal Documents

On top of registration and other protection mechanisms, you also need to cover your intellectual property rights in important legal documents. These can include:

This is especially important for an e-commerce business. You may not necessarily engage with parties personally or in person, so you must cover intellectual property issues in your contracts. In particular, be aware of your online contracts, such as your terms and conditions and your website terms of use. These documents cover both your customers and visitors to your website, so you need to outline your intellectual property rights so that you can more easily pursue these parties should they attempt infringement.

Key Takeaways

If you have an e-commerce business, there are various intellectual property issues you need to consider. You need to identify and protect your existing intellectual property assets and implement ongoing mechanisms for maintaining them online. If you need assistance, LegalVision’s experienced intellectual property lawyers can help you. Call them at 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to register a trade mark?

It costs $100, plus GST, per class to apply to register your trade mark. 

How much does it cost to register a company name?

It costs $10, plus GST, to apply to register your company name with NZCO.

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