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Trade marks are a kind of intellectual property right in New Zealand that protect various unique identifiers for your business. For instance, you may register trade marks that protect your business name or logo. When you have trade mark rights, you can prevent others from copying or using your trade marks without permission. Notably, you do not necessarily have to register trade mark rights with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) to gain these legal powers. However, it is significantly easier to protect your interests when you do so. Therefore, this article will provide some background and explain some advantages of trade mark registration in New Zealand.

You Have Control Over Your Trade Mark

Suppose you successfully apply to IPONZ to register your trade mark and gain the corresponding rights. This will give you the exclusive right to use your trade mark to promote the goods and services it applies to. Therefore, if someone else copies your trade mark or uses one similar to it to promote their goods or services, you have legal powers available to you to make them stop.

For example, if someone tries to use your skincare logo (or one similar to it) on their skincare products, you can stop this usage. It infringes on your exclusive right to use this logo, which applies nationwide.

You can indicate your exclusive ownership with the ® symbol next to your trade mark. With registered trade mark rights, you have the control to determine:

  • your trade mark’s usage in New Zealand;
  • any licensing rights for those that wish to use your trade mark; and
  • what action you will take against those who copy your intellectual property.

A Distinct Way to Stand Out Amongst Competitors

Another advantage of trade mark registration is that once you have successfully registered your trade mark, no one else can register an identical or confusingly similar trade mark for the same or similar goods or services. As part of the application process, IPONZ assesses your mark to determine whether:

  • similar or identical trade marks already exist;
  • it is distinct enough to represent your business; and
  • it can uniquely apply to the goods or services you sell.

Once your trade mark passes this evaluation, it goes onto a formal register, so it becomes a trade mark that IPONZ will evaluate future trade mark applications against.

Therefore, registration can help formally recognise your trade mark’s distinctiveness. As a result, you can build a long-lasting reputation around your trade mark without the risk of others registering similar trade marks.

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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You Can Stop Others From Stealing Your Brand

If another business copies your branding or commercial imagery, it can steal customers away from your business, detracting from the value of your goods or services. Additionally, if customers are confused by competing trade marks, you can lose reputation and revenue.

However, with registered trade mark rights, you have various legal powers available to you to stop others from copying or using your trade mark. With successful legal action, you may be able to get the other party to:

  • stop their imitation and destroy any counterfeit products;
  • compensate you for any profit loss due to their action;
  • pay your legal fees; or
  • give up any profits they made using your trade mark.

You do have similar rights with unregistered trade marks, but establishing the existence of these rights is significantly easier with a registered trade mark. The process is also less time-consuming and expensive.

Simply having registered trade mark rights can act as a deterrent for any counterfeiters. This is because of your trade mark’s easily searchable official record.

You Can Profit Off Your Trade Mark

With registered trade mark ownership, your trade mark becomes a valuable asset for your business. As the owner of your trade mark, you can license its use to other parties. This process means that other parties may pay you licensing fees in exchange for using your trade mark.

For instance, if you wish to sell your products through a distributor, licensing fees/royalties can increase the final amount they pay you, according to the reputation and value of your trade mark.

If you wish to grow your business, such as through a franchise, having registered rights in your trade mark makes this process much easier. Additionally, if you decide to sell your business, including your registered trade marks as part of the sale can be extremely attractive for buyers, allowing you to increase the selling price.

Key Takeaways

While trade mark registration is not mandatory in New Zealand, you benefit from this official process. It is much easier to protect an asset with registration. This can bring great value to your business, with far-reaching advantages as your reputation grows. Therefore, we recommend registering your trade mark.

If you need help with your trade mark registration, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is a kind of intellectual property right that protects something that identifies your business. Common examples of assets you can register include your business’ name or logo.

What is the difference between registered and unregistered trade marks?

You do not have to register trade marks to gain their legal protection, but your rights are stronger when you do. You can apply to register your trade mark with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ).

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

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