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Intellectual property is a valuable business asset, which you can own and deal with similar to your physical property. Intellectual property protections give you legal rights that protect the ideas that make your business uniquely yours, especially when standing against your competitors. There are different kinds of intellectual property rights in New Zealand that function differently according to what they protect. One kind of intellectual property right is trade mark rights, which your business is likely to engage with. Fortunately, trade marks can last as long as you need them, as long as you maintain them appropriately. Therefore, this article will provide some background and explain how long a trade mark can last in New Zealand.

How Do Trade Marks Work in New Zealand?

As an intellectual property right, trade marks protect the unique identifiers of your business that link it to any goods or services you provide. What qualifies as a trade mark is quite broad and can include: 

  • words;
  • phrases;
  • symbols;
  • logos;
  • sounds;
  • smells; or 
  • any combination of these.

As a result, there are various things that you could register as a trade mark, as long as you can represent them graphically and they represent your business. These include examples such as your:

  • business logo;
  • business name;
  • slogan; 
  • product name; or
  • various branding aspects.

If you have a valid trade mark, then you are the only person/business that can use that trade mark. You also gain other kinds of legal rights with a registered trade mark.

Registered vs. Unregistered Trade Marks

However, there is a key distinction to make between registered trade marks and unregistered trade marks. You can have an unregistered trade mark right, where you have not formally registered with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). This status will affect the validity of your mark and how long it lasts, so you must understand this difference. 

You can operate your business activity with an unregistered trade mark and retain some legal rights, such as the ability to indicate your trade mark with the ™ symbol. However, if someone copies your trade mark or uses it on their products, the legal process of enforcing those rights can be time-consuming, complex and expensive. Your ability to do so depends on:

  • how long you have been trading with your unregistered trade mark;
  • how much of a distinctive reputation it has in your relevant market; and
  • the nature of any third-party copying or misleading conduct.

You have more to prove because you do not have official registered ownership over your trade mark. Therefore, you need to establish this with evidence.

On the other hand, if you successfully register your trade mark with the IPONZ, there is an official record of your formal ownership. With registration, you can use the ® symbol to indicate your ownership, and you have clearer legal rights against those who might copy or use your trade mark without authorisation.

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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How Long Does a Trade Mark Last?

For unregistered trade marks, their validity and enforceability last as long as you can prove that you have a sufficient and strong enough reputation in the market concerning that trade mark. As a result, you cannot guarantee that your unregistered trade mark rights will last forever.

Conversely, registered trade marks can last for as long as you want them to. When you first register your trade mark, you obtain registered trade mark rights for 10 years. After that, you have to renew your trade mark registration. You can do so every ten years thereafter. Therefore, your trade mark can last as long as you maintain its registration by renewing it every 10 years.

Your date of renewal is your priority date. This is either your trade mark’s filing date or its convention priority date, whichever of the two is earlier. As such, you must keep a record of this date, so you renew your trade mark in time. IPONZ should send you a reminder of this date when it is coming up as well.

How Can I Renew My Trade Mark?

Fortunately, you can complete the renewal process online through IPONZ’s digital management portal. When it comes time to renew your trade mark, you will need to renew it for every class of goods or services it applies to. Correspondingly, you will need to pay a renewal fee for each of those classes, which is $200 per class. You can renew your trade mark up to a year in advance, and there is a six month grace period afterwards if you miss your renewal date. However, you have reduced powers with your trade mark in that period. If you do not renew within those six months, your trade mark expiration expires.

It is crucial that you use your trade mark during its registration. Otherwise, you run the risk of third parties opposing your trade mark for non-use.

Key Takeaways

A trade mark protects various branding identifiers for your business and can last indefinitely as long as you renew it every ten years. 

If you need help with your trade mark, 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 can qualify as a trade mark?

Trade marks can cover a variety of identifiers for your business, including words, phrases, or symbols. Therefore, you may register your business name or logo as a trade mark.

How long does a trade mark last?

A trade mark registration can last as long as you want it to. However, you have to renew your registration every 10 years to maintain it.

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