Your intellectual property – your ideas – are valuable and key to your competitive advantage. The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand has new resources to help you protect them.
Before setting up shop and going to market, make sure no one else can claim your name or great ideas – your valuable intellectual property (IP). And on the flip-side, make sure your ideas are safe to use and don’t conflict with someone else’s IP.
New online resources from the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) can help small business owners identify and protect their IP.
Overview of IP (external link) — IPONZ
No, we’re not talking about Mötley Crüe here.
Dr Feelgood frozen pops were born after a brainwave led Mel Bridge and Craig Jackman to freeze the probiotic drink they’d formulated into ice pop moulds. They spent months refining ice pop recipes in their kitchen.
“Right from the beginning, we understood that if we build something that we like – and other people like – if it’s not protected, it’s fair game,” says Jackman.
The name was decided on early, and Craig learned he could protect the ‘Dr Feelgood’ name as a word mark (a word mark is a trade mark that uses only words) through IPONZ despite the Mötley Crüe song and album, because the product is registered in a different industry category – a category of goods and services that covers confectionery, ices, and sweets.
Alongside a registered trade mark, copyright (an automatic right) protects the distinctive graphics and text used on the Dr Feelgood packaging and website, and their social media content.
When a trade mark is registered, you can use the ® symbol.
Here are some of the common ways you can protect your intellectual property:
Trade marks distinguish your goods or services in the marketplace from those of other traders. Your trade mark could include particular words, phrases, or images. Trade marks are the most common type of registered IP in New Zealand. Many businesses register their product names as trade marks, as well as their company name.
New or original product features like shape and pattern, produced through an industrial process, can be registered as a design. You should apply to register your design before going public or selling the product. If you go public before then, eg advertising online, the design may not be considered new and you won’t be able to register the IP.
Patents are granted to protect inventions. You can patent a new product or process, the material it is made from, or how something is made. The initial cost is less if you make a provisional application.
In New Zealand, going public can prevent you from registering a patent or a design down the track.
Original works, like books, websites, computer programs, films, songs (both music and lyrics), paintings, photographs and performances are all protected by copyright. The owner does not need to register the copyright.
KFC’s original recipe is a good example of a trade secret. It has real value to KFC, and is key information that isn’t known by their customers or their competitors. Trade secrets can be things like confidential processes, customer information, business strategies, or manufacturing processes.
If someone steals your secret, that’s a kind of theft or misappropriation, but if someone devises your trade secret independently then you may be left with no IP protection at all.
IPONZ at Taking Care of Business (external link) small business roadshow events — IPONZ
If you want to know more about intellectual property, you can call IPONZ on 0508 447 669, fill out the online form at iponz.govt.nz/contact-us (external link) .