How to check for existing trade marks
Your application to register a trade mark is likely to be rejected if your intended mark is already applied for, registered, in use or is ‘confusingly similar’ to an existing trade mark. This makes it important to check that the same or a similar trade mark is not already on the register or in use. Here are the steps to check this:
1. Search the IPONZ Trade Marks Register (FREE)
Access the ‘Search Trade Mark Case(s)’ screen and enter keyword(s) in the Keyword field, followed by an asterisk (*) which acts as a wildcard to widen the search. For example: harmony*
Even if you cannot find an exact match for your intended trade mark, it is worth searching for similar marks that may prevent your trade mark from being registered. For instance, an application for Harmony Lollies by a confectionery manufacturer may be rejected as confusingly similar to existing registered trade marks used by other companies in the same industry.
Please see our guide to online searching of the trade mark register for further information.
IPONZ fee-based services - Search and preliminary advice
If you are unfamiliar with the trade mark registration process, it is recommended that you consider making an application for a search and preliminary advice report before making an application to register your trade mark.
A search and preliminary advice report will provide you with an assessment of whether your trade mark is likely to comply with two important areas that are examined under the Trade Marks Act 2002 (the Act) when an application to register a trade mark is made.
- A search of the trade marks Register will inform you if there are existing registered or pending trade marks that may prevent an application for registration of your trade mark from proceeding to acceptance under section 25 of the Act.
- Preliminary advice will inform you whether your trade mark has a distinctive character under section 18 of the Act.
Note: If an application to register a trade mark is made, the mark will undergo another complete examination to determine whether it complies with all the requirements of the Act.
2. Search elsewhere for the same or similar mark
A business may have ownership rights in a trade mark even if it has not been registered. Therefore, in addition to checking the Trade Marks Register, you may also want to check that no-one else is already trading under a similar (perhaps unregistered) mark in New Zealand. Sources of information include:
- the New Zealand Companies Register
- the Office of the Domain Names Commissioner
- the Yellow® directory
- the White Pages telephone directory
- a general internet search
To search for a company name, domain and trade mark in one search use OneCheck.
Please note: This information is intended to be a guide only. For legal advice, we recommend that you contact a patent attorney or lawyer familiar with intellectual property law.