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Your logo is a valuable intellectual property asset for your business due to your ideas and effort. However, when someone else copies your logo or uses it without your permission, they may steal customers that want to engage with your business. Therefore, you must know your rights under New Zealand intellectual property law and how you can enforce those rights in such a situation. Copyright and trade mark are two intellectual property rights in particular that you can take advantage of. For some guidance, this article will explain the steps you can take under each protection when someone else uses your logo. 

What Is a Trade Mark?

A trade mark is a unique identifier that allows you and your business to easily distinguish its goods and services from other competing businesses. It is used in marketing to show customers that goods and services come from a particular business. A trade mark can include a: 

  • name; 
  • logo; 
  • symbol; 
  • slogan; 
  • picture; or 
  • combination of these.

Your logo likely serves as a badge of origin for your business, and the best way to protect your logo is to register it as a trade mark with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). This will give you registered trade mark protection over your logo. However, you only gain this right once your trade mark registration application is successful. 

If you have been using your logo for a long time, it may qualify as an unregistered trade mark, and you may have some intellectual property rights in this case as well.

Once you own a trade mark registration, you are responsible for monitoring how it is used and protecting it against infringement. To make sure you get the best out of your protection, you need to be prepared to communicate your legal rights and, if necessary, defend your rights through legal action.

Copyright Protection

In addition, another form of intellectual property protection is copyright. In New Zealand, your original works are automatically protected to some degree by copyright. This intellectual property right can apply to a range of works, including:

  • literary works;
  • dramatic works;
  • artistic works;
  • musical works;
  • sound recordings;
  • films;
  • communication works; and
  • typographical arrangements of published editions.

As a graphic, your logo can classify as an artistic work, so you may have copyright protection. As copyright is also automatic,  you will not need to register your logo anywhere to obtain copyright protection. 

However, this does not offer comprehensive protection. For example, copyright does not prevent others from creating something similar to your work. It only protects the unique expression of ideas in your logo. Rather than relying solely on copyright protection, it is worthwhile to protect your logo through trade mark registration.

Importantly, it can be helpful to use the © symbol to show that you are claiming copyright in your work, but this is not essential. Additionally, the law provides owners of a copyrighted work with the right to control who may use or profit from their creations for a certain period.

Enforcing Your Rights

If someone is using your logo without your consent, it may:

  • impact your ability to profit from your work and business;
  • discourage innovation and creativity;
  • confuse consumers about the origin and quality of goods or services; or
  • cause health and safety risks (e.g. counterfeit pharmaceuticals or defective electrical equipment).

You are responsible for monitoring the way your intellectual property is used and protecting it against infringement. As a result, this responsibility applies to your logo, and you need to remain vigilant about third parties taking advantage of it. Notably, having intellectual property rights such as registering your logo as a trade mark or being aware of your automatic copyright protection gives you legal standing to pursue those who may use it without authorisation.

Your Options

To make sure you get the best out of your protection, you should prepare to communicate your legal rights and, if necessary, defend them through legal action. If you believe that your intellectual property rights have been infringed, you may choose to take legal action against the infringing party. However, you should seek legal advice in these cases, as the facts of the situation will greatly influence any success.

Following that, the courts have many options to compensate copyright owners for proven infringements of copyright and trade marks. These include:

  1. interim injunctions which stop the unauthorised use of your work;
  2. search orders to gather more evidence;
  3. payment of costs or loss of income; and
  4. mandatory injunctions, including orders to hand over the stolen intellectual property.

Key Takeaways

Under New Zealand intellectual property law, your logo may have inherent copyright protection. Additionally, if you have registered your logo as a trade mark, you will have this additional registered intellectual property right to rely on. If you think someone has breached these rights, LegalVision’s experienced intellectual property lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you register a logo? 

The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) grants and registers intellectual property rights, including trade marks. Our trade marks team can assist you with registering your logo as a trade mark.

Can I use the © symbol without registering my logo?

Yes, you can use the © symbol to signal that your logo is your own original work. You do not have to register a logo to use this symbol. Once you register your logo, you can then use the ® symbol.

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