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Apply for a patent

This guide aims to help you make the application process easier to follow and understand.

Before you apply for a patent it is a good idea to search for existing patents to see if your invention already exists.

Because the application itself requires legal and technical information, we also recommend that you understand the requirements and gather relevant information before beginning your application.

Preparation of a patent specification is a complex matter. We recommend you contact a patent attorney for professional assistance.

Write a patent specification

A patent specification is a written description of an invention. The specification provides detailed information on how to make and use the invention. Drawings often form part of a patent specification, as they are a powerful way of showing what an invention is and how it works.

In New Zealand, you can choose to file a new application with either a provisional or a complete specification.

Filing with a provisional specification is popular because it requires much less detail than a complete specification, yet will still establish a priority filing date. In this respect it is often used to 'buy time' to gather funding or conduct further research.

Note that if you choose to file a provisional specification you must also file a complete specification at some point if you want to have your application examined and have your invention patented. If you do not file the complete specification within the prescribed time your application will be abandoned.

The specification is a vital part of any patent application. When a patent is granted, the specification defines what is protected.

Formatting a patent specification

The New Zealand Patent Regulations 2014 require that a patent specification (whether provisional or complete) should:

  • be in A4 paper format;
  • have a left-hand margin of at least 2.5 cm, and right-hand and top and bottom margins of at least 2 cm; and
  • have page numbers at the top or bottom of each page.

Place any drawings at the end of the specification, after the description and claims. You can use reference numbers and letters in your drawings, but not descriptive text or measurements. Numbering pages of drawings is a good idea (e.g. page 1 of 5, page 2 of 5 etc).

Drawings must:

  • be in A4 paper format with left-hand and top margins of at least 2.5 cm, a right-hand margin of at least 1.5 cm, and a bottom margin of at least 1 cm; and
  • have consecutively numbered figures (e.g. Fig. 1, Fig. 2).

Further information can be found in Regulations 14 to 32 of the Patents Regulations 2014.

Contents of a patent specification

A patent specification contains the following elements:

1. Title

The title describes the essence of the invention in a few words. The title:

  • must relate to and broadly describe the invention (e.g. “A waterproof zip-fastener")
  • should not include acronyms, statements of quality, trade marks, fancy names, the word “patent” or personal names.

2. Description

The description makes up the majority of the specification. It explains the invention and how to put it into practice. The description may include the following headings:

Technical field: The description usually begins with a brief statement identifying the technical field of the invention. For example, “The invention relates to … and is suitable for [activity or purpose]."

Background of the invention (optional): You can include some background information describing what is known (i.e. the most pertinent prior art), mention if your invention attempts to solve any particular problems and include objectives for the invention. Please note that the invention as described or claimed should meet any of these objectives.

Statement of invention: This section summarises the essential and preferred features of the invention. It sets out the scope of the invention and should be equivalent to the main claims of your specification or, in the case of a provisional specification, claims you intend using for any subsequent complete specification.

Detailed description of the invention: The final part of the description describes the technical aspects of the invention in detail, explaining how to construct and use examples of the invention or how the inventive process can be carried out. Graphs, flowcharts, tables, experimental data and drawings can be included.

3. Claims

Patent claims define the protective boundaries of the invention (the “scope of monopoly”). Claims must be clear, supported by the description, and list all of the essential features of the invention.

Note:

  • Complete specifications must end with at least one claim,
  • Each claim should be written as one sentence,
  • A claim can be independent or dependent on an earlier claim(s),
  • Generally, claims begin with the broadest claim and progress to narrower claims,
  • Claims should not contain laudatory statements like “it is cheaper" or “it is the best way of doing it that I have seen",
  • The claims are usually presented on a separate page or pages, under the heading “What I/We Claim Is:". The page numbering follows on from the description.

Application types

There are a number of ways to apply for a patent, each with their own application requirements. The best pathway for you will depend on your circumstances. 

For example, if you wish to protect your invention in many countries you may wish to follow a different application pathway than if you only want to protect your invention in New Zealand. 

Likewise, depending on your situation, your application could be new, or could be based on an earlier application, if you have one. The earlier application may have been filed in New Zealand or overseas.

Requirements common to all pathways

Every application must comply with the New Zealand Patents Act 2013 and Regulations 2014. To receive a filing date and number, the application must include a completed online form, specification and fee.

Your application will not automatically be examined. Once you have submitted a complete specification, you must also request examination. An examination report will be issued as part of the examination process. It will indicate matters that you need to address to progress your application.

Different patent application pathways and their requirements

Application with a provisional specification

A provisional specification broadly describes an invention, often in less detail than a complete specification. By itself, a provisional specification is not enough to obtain a patent – a complete specification must also be filed.

You might choose to file a provisional specification if your invention is at an early stage of development, and you want to 'buy' more time for research and development. The benefit is that the filing date can be a start date for your patent.

When you file with a provisional specification your application form will be checked to see that it complies with New Zealand law. The provisional specification (ie the invention) is not examined.

A provisional specification must include the title of the invention and a description of the invention. Typically this would include a broad definition of the invention (all of its essential elements, and how they relate to each other) and a description in sufficient detail to enable a skilled person to “perform” the invention. Drawings often form part of a provisional specification, as they are a powerful way of showing what an invention is and how it works.

Pathway overview:

  1. Apply with a provisional specification – NZ patent application.
  2. File a complete specification within 12-15 months. Ask for an extension of time if between 12-15 months.
  3. Request examination within 5 years of filing the complete specification.

Note: The application will be considered abandoned if the applicant fails to file a complete specification within 12 months (extendable to 15 months, at the applicant’s request). When you file an application with a provisional specification, use the Standard Provisional online form. When you're ready to file your complete specification, use our Standard Complete online form.

Further information:

Application with a complete specification

An application with a complete specification must include:

  • an abstract
  • a description of the invention, and
  • one or more claims.

The description needs to describe the invention in sufficient detail to allow a skilled person to 'perform' the invention claimed.

Claims need to set out clearly and concisely all of the necessary parts or steps of the invention, and how they relate to each other. The claimed invention will be examined to determine that it is different from what is already known, and inventive compared to what is already known.

Drawings often form part of a complete specification, as they are a powerful way of showing what an invention is and how it works.

If you have an existing New Zealand application with a provisional specification, your complete specification:

  • must be filed within 12 months of the filing date of the application (this time being extendable to 15 months at the applicant’s request),
  • may include developments to the invention that were not disclosed in the provisional specification.

Pathway overview:

  1. Apply with a complete specification – NZ patent application.
  2. Request examination within 5 years.

Note: Examination must be requested within 5 years of the complete specification filing date. 

Further information:

Paris Convention application

A Paris Convention ('Convention') application is based on the first application for the invention filed in a Convention country. For example, you could have an Australian patent application ('basic application') and within 12 months file a Convention application in New Zealand. The priority date of your New Zealand application will be the filing date of the Australian patent application.

A benefit of using the Paris Convention is that you can delay your decision to file in other export markets for up to a year, while still relying on your basic application to establish a priority date.

It's possible to claim priority under the Convention from two or more basic applications. However, the New Zealand application must be filed within 12 months of the date of filing of the earliest basic application.

Details (country, filing date and application number) of the basic application(s) of all Convention priority claims must be provided to us at the time of filing your New Zealand application. We'll usually request a copy of the specification filed in connection with the basic application. If the specification of the basic application isn't in English, a verified English translation of the specification must also be provided if we've requested a copy of the basic application.

Pathway overview:

  1. Application first filed overseas in another Paris Convention country – basic application.
  2. Apply in New Zealand within 12 months with a complete specification – NZ Convention Application.
  3. Request examination within 5 years of filing date of NZ complete specification.

Note: A complete specification must be filed with a Convention application. Please use our Standard Complete online form and include details of your basic application(s).

Further information:

Patent Cooperation Treaty application

A Patent Cooperation Treaty ('Treaty') application is a single application which can have effect in a large number of export markets simultaneously.

You can start a Treaty application in New Zealand, and then use it to seek protection overseas, or you can use an overseas filed Treaty application to seek protection in New Zealand.

For more information about how to make a Treaty application in New Zealand (and its benefits) see Filing a Treaty application from New Zealand.

Pathway overview:

  1. Patent Cooperation Treaty International Application filed – Treaty Application.
  2. Enter New Zealand Phase within 31 months of earliest priority date – NZ application number.
  3. Request examination within 5 years of the international filing date – NZ examination.

Entry into New Zealand from a Treaty application

If you have a Treaty application and want protection in New Zealand you must request entry with us. This is called entry into New Zealand 'national phase'. You must file your request within 31 months of the earliest priority date.

The description, claims, and drawings (if any) contained in the application are treated as a complete specification in New Zealand. Voluntary amendments can be made at the time of requesting entry into New Zealand.

The international filing date is considered to be the filing date of the complete specification in New Zealand.

Examination must be requested within 5 years of the filing date of the complete specification (ie of the international filing date).

Note: When filing a Treaty application, select our PCT National Phase Entry Request form and enter your Treaty application number.  

Further information:

Divisional application

A new application can be made from a pending application that hasn't yet been accepted. The new application is called a 'divisional application'. Divisional applications keep the filing date of the original application (often called the 'parent').

Divisional applications are used for various reasons. For example, if we objected to your application on the basis that your claims relate to more than one invention, you could resolve this by transferring a claim or claims from the parent application into one or more divisional applications.

To retain the parent’s filing date, the complete specification filed with the new divisional application can only contain subject matter included in the parent’s complete specification.

Pathway overview:

  1. Parent must not have been accepted, refused or withdrawn – Parent application.
  2. Apply with a complete specification – Divisional application.
  3. Request examination within five years of filing the original complete specification on the parent.

Note: Examination must be requested for any divisional application within five years of the parent’s original complete specification filing date. Please use our Standard Complete online form and include details of the parent. It's also possible to file a divisional application with a provisional specification.

Further information:

Request for the grant of a Patent of Addition

You can apply for a patent of addition for an improvement or modification of the main invention in your existing application or patent. 

A patent of addition invention must be different to the main invention while still sharing the same essential features. It doesn't need to include an inventive step over the main invention. 

When granted, no renewal fees are payable for a patent of addition, and the term becomes the same as that of the main patent. A patent of addition ceases when the term for the patent for the main invention ceases.

Pathway overview

  1. Pending NZ application or in force patent – Main invention.
  2. Apply with a provisional or complete specification – patent of addition application.
  3. Request examination within 5 years of filing a complete specification.

Further information:

Prepare to file

You can apply for a patent by completing our online application form and paying the prescribed fee.

Registering and log in to the case management facility

Before applying for a patent you need to become a registered user on our website. This gives you access to our case management facility, which will help you manage your intellectual property via our website. As part of the initial set-up process you'll be required to supply an email address. We'll use to communicate with you on issues relating to your case. There are no joining fees.

Once you've registered you'll have access to a user Inbox where you can administer your intellectual property cases.

To log in to your User Inbox:

  • Select Login at the top right of the page.
  • Enter your username and password details.

Information and documents required

Required information

When you apply for a patent you must provide certain information. We recommend you have this information ready before you begin the application process. You'll need:

  • The applicant’s details (full name, address and nationality). If:
    • you're the applicant, your name, address and nationality details,
    • there's more than one applicant, the details for every applicant,
    • one or more applicant is a company, the details for the company (the ‘nationality’ of a company is its principal place of business).
  • The inventor’s details (full name and address). For Treaty applications entering New Zealand national phase, the case management system will require you to enter your PCT international application number. Information will be automatically downloaded from WIPO after the PCT International application number is processed (this may take up to two minutes).
  • An address for service in New Zealand and communication address (email address). The address for service can be a business or residential address, post office box or document exchange box located in New Zealand.

Note: You can only make an application for a patent on behalf of someone else for gain (such as payment) if you're a registered New Zealand patent attorney.

Patent specification

When you apply for a patent you must also upload a patent specification that describes the invention, either in Word or PDF format. This is not necessary for Treaty applications entering New Zealand national phase unless you want to file a certified English translation and/or make voluntary amendments.

Every application must have either a provisional or complete specification. Information on how to do this is set out below under Choosing your application type.

Claiming Paris Convention Priority

If you are claiming priority from a Paris Convention basic application, you'll need to provide the application number, country and filing date of the basic application.

For Treaty applications entering New Zealand national phase, this information will be automatically entered after the PCT International application number is processed (this may take up to two minutes).

Choosing your application type

There are several different types of application you can file. The information below outlines some scenarios and provides basic instructions on which type of application to file.

You'll find the options to apply for a patent under the Patent heading on the left side menu of your Inbox.

If you have a provisional specification:

  • Select Apply for a Patent (Standard Provisional).
  • Be ready to upload your document file containing the provisional specification.

If you have a complete specification:

  • Select Apply for a Patent (Standard Complete).
  • Be ready to upload your document file containing the complete specification.

Note: Please read on below if you need to link the complete specification with an existing case, or you have a Treaty application ready for national phase entry.

If you want to file a complete specification on an earlier application that was accompanied by a provisional specification:

  • Select Apply for a Patent (Standard Complete).
  • In the online form you'll be able to link the specifications by entering the details of your existing provisional case.
  • When you submit the completed online application form you'll receive a complete case number - this will remain the same throughout the application process and upon grant.

If you want to make a divisional application:

  • Select Apply for a Patent (Standard Complete).
  • In the online form you'll be able to link the cases by entering the parent case details.
  • Your new application will receive the benefit of internal priority for any claims supported by the disclosures made in the parent case.

If you want to make a request for an application to be granted as a patent of addition:

  • Select Apply for a Patent (Standard Complete).
  • In the online form you will be able to link the cases by entering the main patent or application details.

If you want to enter New Zealand national phase:

  • Select PCT National Phase Entry and enter your PCT International application number.
  • The international application details and document will be downloaded from WIPO (download will take place following the submission of your application).
  • If you want to make voluntary amendments or need to file a certified English translation, be ready to upload your document file containing the replacement specification.

Complete an application

Once you have logged in you'll be taken to your Inbox. Under the Patent section select the type of application which is appropriate to the patent you wish to apply for.

Note: You can save your incomplete application at any stage by selecting Save on the bottom right corner of the page. To retrieve a saved application, choose Apply For and in the section Your saved un-submitted patent applications towards the top of the page, you'll be able to Select and complete your previously saved application.

Saved applications that have not been completed will be kept for a 90 days, after which they will be deleted automatically from the system.

Ensure you fill in all required fields (marked with a red dot). If you need help, select and hold the cursor over the chosen field box and a help dialogue box will appear.

On the application form you will see: 

Reference

Enter your reference for the application. You should use a different reference for each application. You'll be prompted if you enter a previously used reference by mistake.

  • Related application(s) - You can specify related applications in this section.
  • Divisional - Search and find the previous application that you wish to divide from.
  • Provisional application - Search and find one or more earlier filed provisional applications that this invention is based on.
  • Request to be Granted as Patent of Addition - Use this if the invention in this application is an improvement or a modification of the invention of the applicant's earlier patent application or granted patent. Search for and select the main patent.

Contact

Identity

You'll need to identify who is filing the application (this will be the person who receives all correspondence). Select one of the following options:

  1. I am acting: In my own right - Select this option if you're the applicant (not the agent of the applicant). Your IPONZ user account details will populate the applicant details and case contact. You can change these by selecting EDIT on the right side of the address.
  2. I am acting: As an Agent - Select this option if you're acting on behalf of the client. Your IPONZ user account details will populate the agent details and case contact. You'll then need to search for, and add, the applicant you're representing. Adding an agent authorisation document is optional.

Grounds of Entitlement

Add a document stating the grounds on which the applicant (the nominated person) has the right to be granted the patent. You can file this at a later date through the Amendment section under Maintain a patent. A notice of entitlement must be filed before the application is accepted.

Patent Information

Enter the details of your patent application here.

Request Examination

Tick the box if you want the application to be examined. If you don't choose this option you'll receive a Task. The Task will allow you to request examination at any point up to a specified date.

If you do request examination:

  • an application with a complete specification will be eligible for first examination upon submission
  • PCT national phase entries will be eligible for examination 31 months from the earliest priority date that you have claimed.
Technology Group

Select an appropriate technology group for your application. If you are unsure what group to pick, select the Unknown group and we'll select a group for you when your application is examined.

Inventor(s)

Search for Inventor details here. If a new inventor is required, you'll be able to create a client record for them by using the ADD button in the client search screen.

For a PCT National Phase application this will have been filled in already.

Abstract

An abstract is mandatory upon filing. Provide an abstract and a drawing (if appropriate).

If you're filing a Treaty (national phase entry) application, then the abstract and abstract drawing will be copied from the published PCT international application.

Abstract Drawing

Upload a drawing chosen from the specification which the text in the abstract refers to. This field is not mandatory.

Title of Invention

Enter the title of the invention. For a PCT National Phase application this will have been filled in already.

Act

This section confirms which Act is used for the application. You don't need to enter anything here.

Postponed acceptance period

If you wish to delay the acceptance of your application, enter a number between 1 and 12 to indicate the number of months you would like the acceptance delayed. The delay will begin from the day of issuance of the first examination report.

Traditional knowledge

Optional – select this if the invention is derived from Maori traditional knowledge or from indigenous plants or animals.

Convention Priority

If you're claiming a priority based on an overseas application (the basic application) you will need to enter the details of the basic application. Select Add and enter the basic application number, priority date and country where the application was first made.

You will need to Add these details for every basic application on which you are basing the priority of your New Zealand application.

For a Treaty (PCT National Phase) application the priority details of the basic application(s) will have been input automatically, but before you submit your application, please ensure that the priority information is correct.

Evidence in support of a convention application

If we request evidence in support of your convention priority claim during examination, this evidence must be supplied within two months of the request. The evidence requested must be provided as electronic copies of any of the documents filed for the basic application and verified English translations of the documents if the basic application documents are not in English.

You may supply these document(s) either by uploading an electronic copy directly into our system or, if the document is stored in the WIPO Digital Access Service (DAS), by entering the WIPO DAS access code associated with the document to allow us to retrieve the document for you. Documents loaded using the WIPO DAS access code will not be visible immediately on submission. You cannot load a document directly at the same time as you request a WIPO access code upload.

You may submit your convention priority documents either at the time of filing your application, or later via the patent amendment facility upon your examiner's request.

Providing documents into WIPO DAS for later use as evidence to support making convention applications overseas

If you are filing (or amending) a Standard Provisional or Standard Complete application (not including divisional or convention applications), you may choose to submit your specification to the WIPO Digital Access Service (DAS). To do this, check the "Submit Specification to WIPO" box in the WIPO DAS part of the Patent Specification section. This will generate a WIPO DAS access code for your document, which can be used by participating WIPO DAS patent offices to inspect and download your document. (This removes the need to file certified copies of your basic application documents directly to those offices.)

If you perform a WIPO DAS upload as an amendment of your application rather than at the time of filing, the specification that is uploaded to WIPO DAS will be the specification that is filed on the same date as the filing date of the application –  that is, the original specification rather than an amended specification that has been filed in the meantime.

A current list of participating offices can be found on the WIPO website.

Patent Specification

You are required to give the specification a title. This must be the same title as the application. To add a specification, select:

  • Add then Select Files to select the specification document on your computer to upload
  • Continue to accept the file you have uploaded, then
  • Submit to confirm the addition of the file and its title to your application.

Note: As part of the online application process for entry into PCT National Phase, we will obtain a copy of the original specification from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). You'll be required to specify if you'd like to use a copy of this as your complete specification, or supply an amended complete specification.

Submitting your application

  • Check your application thoroughly and make any final changes before submitting it. If you would like to save your application without submitting it press Save. You can generate a printout of your application, by clicking Generate PDF summary.
  • When you've completed the application form click Submit. 
    Note: If there is an error or omission in the form a message will display in red at the location on the screen where the information is missing or incorrect.
  • Your fee description will be displayed at the bottom of the main application page and on the payment page.
  • Payment:
    • If you have a direct debit facility loaded to your account you can choose the Direct Debit option for payment.
    • Otherwise select Credit Card or Internet Banking and complete the payment process.
  • Once your application has been submitted you will receive a notification to the email address that was listed in the contact details. A confirmation and summary of the submission of the patent application will appear in the Discussion section of your Inbox.

Next steps

See the patent examination process for more information on what happens after you have applied.