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Customers recognise your business by your products and come to you for the unique goods you can provide. You can protect those products with relevant intellectual property rights, including registered trade mark rights. But, do your New Zealand trade marks protect your products internationally? This article will provide some background and explain whether you need international trade marks to protect your New Zealand products.

How Can a Trade Mark Protect My Products?

A trade mark registration is a kind of intellectual property right that protects a unique mark or sign representing your business. Your customers use your trade marks to recognise your products as being yours. Therefore, a trade mark serves as a “badge of origin”, showing customers that certain products come from your business.

For instance, say that you have trade mark rights in your business logo. You can then print this logo on your products and their packaging to indicate to your customers that they are your goods.

If you are the registered owner of your trade mark, you gain numerous benefits that can help protect your products. These include:

  • a public record of your ownership over that particular trade mark;
  • legal options should someone use an identical or confusingly similar trade mark;
  • restrictions on people registering identical or similar trade marks after yours; and
  • the exclusive right to use and commercialise your trade mark.

In particular, if someone tries to produce counterfeits of your goods using your trade mark, this would infringe upon your exclusive rights. As a result, you have legal powers available to get them to stop copying your products and misusing your intellectual property.

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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What Are International Trade Marks?

As a business trading in New Zealand, you can apply to register your trade mark with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). With this registered status, you can take full advantage of the benefits listed above and more. However, this protection only applies within New Zealand. Therefore, if someone makes unauthorised use of your trade mark in another country, you cannot generally rely on your New Zealand rights.

Other countries have their own trade mark and intellectual property protection system. International trade marks refer to when you register trade marks in other countries, thus protecting your interests overseas.

For example, if you do business in Australia, you may register a trade mark there protecting its use for your products. Their trade mark registration system is similar to our own, but there are a few differences you need to be mindful of.

You can gain international trade marks in different ways, but whether you need to do so will depend on your business plan.

Do I Need International Trade Marks to Protect My NZ Products?

Whether you need international trade marks to protect your New Zealand products depends on whether you do business overseas. Such activities may include:

  • selling online to international customers from New Zealand;
  • selling your products from physical stores overseas;
  • advertising and promoting your products internationally; and
  • in some cases, manufacturing your products in other countries. 

If you do any of these commercial activities or similar, then you should consider registering international trade marks to protect your products. If you do not, you run the risk of others copying or imitating your goods with fewer (or no) legal avenues for you to stop them.

For example, say that you only sell your goods internationally from your online website, based in New Zealand. However, someone imitates your goods, uses your trade mark on those products, and sells those from physical stores. So, customers think they can purchase your goods locally rather than using your website. As a result, you lose business and market share. With international trade mark protection, you have clear trade mark rights that you can rely on to stop the other party and potentially gain some compensation for your losses.

How Can I Register International Trade Marks?

There are two main ways that you can register a trade mark internationally. These are:

  • going through IPONZ and registering your existing New Zealand trade mark in multiple countries using the Madrid System; or
  • registering a new trade mark in the specific country or countries you want protection in.

One method may suit you better than the other, particularly if you wish to maintain different branding or business strategies in different countries.

Key Takeaways

If you register a trade mark to protect your branding, you gain legal rights that can help you prevent others from copying or imitating your goods. However, trade mark registrations are generally only enforceable in the country of registration. Therefore, if you sell goods internationally, it would be wise to register international trade marks in the relevant countries to protect your brand.

If you need help registering international trade marks, 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 type of intellectual property protection. It serves as a unique identifier for your business. For example, common trade marks include your business name or logo.

How can I register trade marks internationally?

There are two ways you can register your trade mark internationally. The first is using the Madrid System, a global trade mark system for registration in multiple countries. The second is registering a new trade mark using an individual country’s own registration process.

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