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Protecting your intellectual property overseas

Many small businesses mistakenly think registering intellectual property (IP) in New Zealand automatically protects them overseas.

This is incorrect — lots of Kiwi businesses have lost opportunities because they failed to realise the implications of their IP actions (or inactions).

Some markets are more risky than others, and may have looser rules in place for protecting IP. If you’re thinking of expanding offshore, or dealing with overseas manufacturers or suppliers, it’s important to find out more about how to protect your IP.

All business owners need to:

  • Understand there’s no such thing as worldwide IP protection – different countries have different rules.
  • Be aware that potential competitors (and counterfeiters) watch the IP registers of different countries to find new opportunities, brands and ideas.
  • Consider where their business is going and what IP steps they might need to take to protect themselves in other markets.
  • Find out if there are time limits such as renewal dates on IP protections they put in place. For example, a patent application filed in New Zealand will be made public after 18 months. This means the clock is ticking to further protect or capitalise on your IP.

Intellectual property protection for exporters(external link) — New Zealand Trade and Enterprise

Case study

Case study

Bouncing back after a setback

The Auckland-based company FlexiDRILL® started out as a drilling contractor in 1996. However, it quickly saw an opportunity to improve the industry’s technology through its own inventions. 

Today it develops drilling tools for the oil, gas, construction, utility, mineral and energy sectors.

It admits that an early IP setback saw it lose some of the American market. But it learned from this lesson and has since embedded IP into its business strategy, innovation processes and day-to-day operations as part of a team approach. This process not only provides confidence in its IP protection, but is inventive in its own right – leading to new innovations of its technology.

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