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6 Tips for Protecting Visual Art with Trade Marks in NZ

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Trade marks are a powerful tool for visual artists to protect their creations. Although trade marks are typically associated with commercial products, they are becoming increasingly important for visual artists to protect their artistic identity. This article will take you through six key tips for protecting your visual art with trade marks.

1. Identify Visual Elements

A key component of protecting visual art with trade marks is that they can distinguish an artist’s work with visual elements. For example, this could include: 

  • colour schemes; 
  • patterns; or
  • symbols.

To create a solid foundation for trade mark protection, you must pinpoint these elements in your own work. When doing so, ensure the elements you find are unique and distinguishable from other artists. 

2. Register Your Trade Marks

Registration is the next critical step in the trade mark protection process. If you want to protect your artwork’s unique visual elements, you must do so via a trade mark application with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). This formal registration process gives you the exclusive rights to use your protected visual elements.

In addition to the artist benefits, trade mark registration can help protect the commercial value associated with your art. This is because it ensures you can take legal action against unauthorised use of your work, which reinforces your brand’s uniqueness in a competitive market.

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3. Use Your Trade Marks Consistently

Importantly, you should use your trade mark consistently to reinforce that you are the owner.  This means consumers will associate your marks with you as an artist.

To facilitate this, ensure that the visual elements you register as a trade mark are featured prominently across all your promotional materials. 

Consistency also strengthens the connection between the trade mark and the artist. This makes it easier to demonstrate ownership of your trade mark if there is a legal dispute.

4. Monitor and Enforce Your Trade Marks

Next, proactively monitor and enforce your trade mark rights. You should regularly look for any unauthorised use of their marks in the market.

In any instances of infringement, where another artist is using your trademarked element or one that is very similar, you must take quick enforcement actions to protect your assets. This might include a preliminary action, such as sending a cease and desist letter to notify the other artist of their infringement. If they do not address the infringement, you may consider pursuing legal action. As such, you should collaborate with a trade mark lawyer to effectively monitor and enforce your trade marks. This ensures that your visual art remains protected.

5. Expand Protection Internationally

In an increasingly global world where artists are also able to export their art or post it online, you may wish to grow an international audience. If so,  you should consider expanding your trade mark protection beyond New Zealand to protect your work on a global scale. This may involve registering trade marks in key international markets to ensure comprehensive protection against unauthorised use outside of New Zealand. It is crucial that you properly protect your artwork overseas by carefully following foreign regulations and meeting deadlines when applying for a trade mark. 

6. Educate and Collaborate With Others 

Sharing knowledge about the importance of trade marks within the art community is one way to cultivate an understanding of intellectual property (IP) protection. As a New Zealand artist, you can collaborate with industry associations, galleries and other artists to raise awareness about why trade marks are relevant to the art community. This then leads to greater respect for the integrity of New Zealand’s creative field.

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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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Key Takeaways

Trade marks are becoming increasingly important for the protection of artists’ visual works and their artistic identity. It is imperative that you, as an artist, know your intellectual property rights and protect your creations from being wrongfully replicated. Some key tips to protect your art in New Zealand with trade marks include:

  • identify the most relevant visual elements;
  • register your trade marks;
  • use your trade marks consistently;
  • monitor and enforce your trade marks;
  • expand your protection internationally; and
  • educate and collaborate with others.

If you need assistance protecting your work as an artist in New Zealand, 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.

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Emily Young

Emily Young

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