What is a patent?
A patent gives you exclusive use of an invention for up to 20 years. It can become a valuable business asset that can be bought, sold, transferred or licensed like any other property.
Applications for New Zealand patents are made to IPONZ, the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand.
On this page:
- Why patent?
- What protection does a patent offer?
- How do I check for existing patents?
- How do I make a patent application?
- What can be patented?
- Can all inventions be patented?
- Can you disclose your invention or development?
- What are the costs involved?
People often confuse a good idea for intellectual property but the fact is, until someone establishes ownership over that idea, it’s no one’s property and it can’t be considered an asset at all.
By securing a patent, which gives you exclusive use of an invention you’ve come up with, you secure ownership to make it an asset you can profit from. And that doesn’t just mean through using the patent – you could also license it to another party or sell it outright.
Regardless of what you plan to do with your invention, a patent lets you take it to market in the knowledge that you can defend your ownership rights and stop any copycats if they try to use your protected intellectual property.
The presence alone of a patent is often enough to put others off copying your intellectual property.
New Zealand patents only give you nationwide rights so it’s best to consider protection strategies for current and future export markets before you release information about your new invention.
New Zealand patents can be used as a basis to establish corresponding overseas patent rights in other countries. If you’d like to protect your invention in a number of overseas countries you can file a Patent Cooperation Treaty International application, which you can lodge through IPONZ.
For professional help with devising patent filing strategies and drafting your patent specification talk to a patent attorney.
If you’re serious about making a patent application, the first thing you need to do is make sure someone hasn’t beaten you to it. If they have and you proceed with your idea, you could infringe on their patent and be taken to court.
Search the IPONZ online patent database as a first port of call, but don’t stop there. International patent databases – and even your local library – should be mined for information.
Find out more about where and how to search for patents.
Patent applications can be made online on the IPONZ website:
- Read the IPONZ guidelines on how to apply for a patent before making your application.
- Register for an igovt log on to access the Patent log in with IPONZ.
- File your application and pay the appropriate fee.
Most small businesses make what is known as an Application with Provisional Specification rather than a complete application because it allows them to start the confidential patenting process early, while they’re still developing the invention. The fee is only $57.50 (inc. GST).
Other advantages of making an Application with Provisional Specification include:
- A period of up to 15 months before having to file a complete specification.
- Establishing a priority date that can help protect your invention from other patent applications that are made while you continue work on your invention.
- Getting a patent application number you can use in your marketing with the words “patent pending”.
- Being able to reveal your invention to interested parties with greater security.
- Avoiding larger patent application costs until you decide the project is worth further investment.
Find out more about the patent application process.
The scope of patentable inventions is large and the following list is by no means exhaustive:
- A new product.
- A new process of manufacturing.
- An improvement to an existing product or process.
- A new method or process relating to the testing or control of an existing manufacturing process.
- New chemical compounds or compositions.
- Biotechnological matter.
- Electrical devices and circuits.
- A second pharmaceutical use for a known chemical compound or composition.
- Improvements in computer technology.
Not all inventions will qualify for a patent. To be patentable, an invention must meet certain criteria relating to novelty, inventiveness and utility.
- Be industrially applicable – in other words, be able to be made or used in some kind of industry.
- Contain an inventive step that isn’t obvious. The invention can’t be already known, or be two or more products or processes put together with no new or improved effect.
- Be new or novel. If the invention has already been used, displayed or otherwise made available in New Zealand, been described in any public document (such as an overseas patent document available in New Zealand, a scientific journal or similar), it will not normally be patentable.
Before deciding whether to apply for a patent it is a good idea to talk to a patent attorney.
The best practice is not to disclose your invention until you’ve filed a patent application. If the invention has already been used, displayed or otherwise made available in New Zealand, it will not normally be patentable.
Find out more about patents on the IPONZ website.
To view the current rates, visit IPONZ’s fees page.