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7 Trade Marks Tips For Filmmakers

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New Zealand is widely considered one of the world’s foremost locations for screen production due to its stunning landscape. Intellectual property plays an essential part in New Zealand’s film industry because it can protect elements of a film, such as its title or unique symbols. Filmmakers cannot overlook the importance of the intersection between trade marks and the film industry. This article will take you through seven trade mark tips for filmmakers in New Zealand.

1. Understand Trade Marks in the Film Industry

In the context of filmmaking, trade marks include elements associated with a film that help identify and distinguish it from others. These elements may include the film:

  • title;
  • tag line; 
  • logos; 
  • character names; or 
  • any other unique symbols or phrases associated with the film. 

Registered trade marks are essential in building brand recognition for films, just like they do for all goods and services.

The film industry is particularly competitive, making trade marks all the more critical. Trade marks allow filmmakers to develop a connection with their audience and provide legal options should there be any unauthorised use.

Conducting a thorough trade mark search is crucial before determining a title or any other distinctive element for your film. You must check the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office’s (IPONZ) database to see whether your potential trade marks are not already registered. This search will help you avoid potential legal difficulties later down the road.

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3. Consider International Trade Mark Protection

It is natural that, as a filmmaker, you will want to reach audiences beyond New Zealand. If so, you should consider international trade mark protection. There are multiple ways you can do this. For example, the Madrid Protocol provides a convenient way to protect your trade marks in multiple countries. Alternatively, you can register your marks in each country your film will be distributed to.

Regardless of how you choose to register your international trade marks, having the assistance of a legal professional will help streamline the process.

4. Register the Film Title

Another tip is to register the title of your film as a trade mark. This provides legal protection and exclusive rights to use your title in connection with filmmaking and other related activities.

Beyond the film title, logos and symbols associated with your film are also essential elements that should receive trade mark protection. This protects these critical visual elements from unauthorised use and reinforces the unique identity of your film, helping it set itself apart from others.

Character names have become synonymous with a film’s success on various occasions. As such, you may choose to register the names of any characters within your film. This is particularly important if your character has a unique name relevant to your movie’s plot.

5. Enforce Your Trade Mark Rights

Trade mark protection is not a one-time effort but requires ongoing vigilance. As such, you must actively monitor the market to identify any unauthorised use of your film-related trade marks. Taking quick action is essential for maintaining the exclusivity of the film’s brand.

6. Consider Licensing Opportunities

As a filmmaker, you can leverage your trade marks through licensing agreements. Licensing allows other businesses or entities to use specific elements associated with your film in exchange for royalties. For example, a business may want to utilise your characters to make merchandise. 

Licensing not only provides an additional income stream but extends your brand’s visibility beyond its standard audience.

7. Negotiate Permissions

On the other side of trade mark protection, obtaining permission before using anyone else’s trade marks in your films is essential. It is standard that filmmakers will incorporate real-life brands or copyrighted material into their movies. However, having written permission to do so will help avoid legal disputes. 

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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 

Intellectual property plays an essential part in New Zealand’s film industry, as it can protect elements of a film, such as its title or unique symbols. Some key trade mark tips for New Zealand filmmakers include:

  • understanding trade marks in the film industry;
  • conducting a comprehensive trade mark search;
  • considering international trade mark protection;
  • registering the film title;
  • protecting logos and symbols;
  • developing unique character names;
  • enforcing your trade mark rights; 
  • considering licensing opportunities; and
  • negotiating permissions.

If you need assistance understanding how a trade mark can benefit your filmmaking ventures 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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