What has IP got to do with me?

Intellectual property (IP) allows people to control and be rewarded for use of their creative efforts. Without IP protection there would be little incentive or revenue available for research and development.

We see, touch, hear about and use IP protected products every day and our language is littered with IP terms. Yo-yo, cornflakes, escalator, nylon and transistor were all originally trade marks. A dot before the abbreviation “com” used to only be part of a domain name. Now “dot com” is used for a successful ICT company or internet trader. Every time you see a movie you’ll be reminded that it’s a copyright protected dramatic work.

Trade marks, often referred to as “brands” or “logos”, are the most visible IP asset. These unique signs are designed to attract attention and used to develop customer loyalty. Ever thought of yourself as a walking billboard? Market research found that a person typically wears at least three branded products everyday. Your own brand experience could influence what and where you buy.

Copyright is an unregistered IP right you probably have. Copyright comes into existence automatically whenever an original idea is expressed in physical form. Copyright applies to poetry, articles, photographs, technical drawings, books, sound recordings, films, TV programmes, computer programs and other original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. There is no age barrier to owning copyright and there could also be more than one copyright owner in a work. Take a CD track where a number of artists collaborate to create the score and lyrics, record the music and produce the track.

Owners of IP assets have empowering legal rights which can stop or prevent unauthorised use. Even if you buy an IP protected product or service, the use of the technology, branding and end product (e.g. data, information, assembled kit or installed programme) can still be restricted by the associated IP rights. Activities like peer to peer file sharing and burning extra DVD ROMs is theft of someone else’s IP work or copyright piracy unless the owner has released them under a permissive licence.

How can I protect my creative work?


In New Zealand, copyright for original material is automatic; there are no fees to pay or forms to fill in. Copyright works can be marked with the internationally recognised copyright indicator: the © symbol followed by the copyright owner’s name and year it was first created.

Both registered and unregistered trade marks are protected in New Zealand. The ™ symbol shows that a trader is using a sign as a trade mark. When a trade mark is registered, the ® symbol may be legally used against the trade mark.

IP owners can use other indicators to alert the public that an IP application has been filed or an IP right has been granted. Generally, the country or regional code is followed by the IP type abbreviation and allocated number, e.g. NZ Patent No. 123456. There are penalties for falsely stating that an IP right has been granted or is still in force after it has lapsed or expired.


Trade marks for classes of goods and services, patents for new inventions, and new designs covering the aesthetic appearance of an article can be registered at the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). New plant varieties may be registered at the New Zealand Plant Variety Rights Office (NZPVRO) if the variety proves to be distinctive, uniform and stable.

Each country has its own set of IP laws. Information you find in a library or from the internet might be outdated or not relevant to New Zealand law. If you would like to learn more about overseas IP protection, please visit World Intellectual Property Organization website.


Secrecy is important when considering protecting inventions, know-how and design aesthetics. Experimenting or trialling in public, pre-launch market research and taking orders before filing could invalidate a patent or design application.

Some creative ideas can be kept confidential. Trade secrets like the Coke® recipe are zealously guarded. No one has been able to discover the exact formula by analysing the commercially released drink (technical term = reverse engineering).

Enforcing IP rights

IP assets are personal property, and it is up to their owner to decide how to benefit from and enforce their IP rights. Not all cases of unauthorised use end up in court. Many disputes are settled through private negotiations.

It is important to know your rights and identify what IP assets you own before sending a warning letter or threatening to sue someone. There are penalties for making unjustifiable threats. In situations where you intend to enforce your IP rights, you should consider consulting with a legal professional specialising in intellectual property.

More information about enforcing IP rights is available in our pages on Trade Marks and Copyright.

Young Enterprise Scheme education resources

These education resources were prepared by IPONZ for Young Enterprise Scheme students and teachers in 2013.

Science and technology fair coordinators’ resource

Intellectual Property and how it relates to science fairs.

WIPO Roving Seminar presentations 2019

IPONZ along with our international colleagues from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) hosted the WIPO Roving Seminars in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in April 2019.

The seminars provided updates on the latest developments in global IP services and initiatives. IPONZ representatives also gave presentations on intellectual property issues from a New Zealand perspective.

Introduction to the WIPO Roving Seminar programme

Mr. Erik Wilbers, Senior Director, WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, Patents and Technology Sector, PTS, WIPO

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Updates, Challenges and Successful Examples

Mr. Matthew Bryan, Director, PCT Legal and User Relations Division, PCT Legal and International Affairs Department, Patents and Technology Sector, PTS, WIPO

PCT Updates and Tips from the Office Perspective
Dr. Neroli Ayling, Patents Team Leader, IPONZ

Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks: Updates, Challenges and Successful Examples [PDF, 416 KB]

Ms. Asta Valdimarsdottir, Director, Madrid Information and Promotion Division, Madrid Registry, Brands and Designs Sector, BDS, WIPO

Madrid System Updates and Tips from the Office Perspective

Ms. Rosa Gould (LLB), Senior Trade Mark Examiner, New Zealand Intellectual Property Office, IPONZ

Arbitration and Mediation: Alternative Dispute Resolution

Mr. Erik Wilbers, WIPO discussing WIPO Alternative Dispute Resolution and Mediation services

Global Databases for Intellectual Property Platforms and Tools for the Connected Knowledge Economy

Ms. Sandrine Ammann, Marketing and Communications Officer, Global Infrastructure Sector, WIPO discussing WIPO Translate for translating patent text, Patentscope, and more.


IPONZ Masterclass events

The IPONZ Masterclass events are a series of short talks on various aspects of intellectual property in New Zealand. These provide an in-depth look at IPONZ’s experiences, practices and observations, and are a good resource for practitioners with a solid understanding of intellectual property law.

IPONZ Masterclass: Patents Act 2013 - The Story so Far

Mark Pritchard, IPONZ Senior advisor patent practice


Kiwi clever stamps

Kiwi ingenuity was celebrated in New Zealand Post’s issue of stamps called Clever Kiwis. These stamps paid homage to the Kiwi ‘can do’ attitude and innovations of some of our local inventors and globally successful entrepreneurs.

Creative Directions

Creative Directions is an online professional support kit designed to help teachers encourage student creativity and raise intellectual property (IP) awareness. The kit includes career building information that can be fitted into a lesson plan or project-based learning experience.

Creative Directions sets out to get media studies teachers talking with their students about IP, helping them understand:

  • What IP is all about – creativity, innovation and enterprise
  • How to respect and value creative work
  • Where to seek information
  • Who to ask to get permission or consent to use others’ creative work.

Creative Directions was co-developed by the Ministry of Education and Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) with help from teachers, students and the music and film industry. The resource is available to download as a full document or individually by chapter on the Ministry of Education website.

Research links

New Zealand’s IP Registers are a valuable source of historical and technical information. Archives New Zealand’s collection includes patent records from 1861. Information about recent applications and registrations can be accessed using the IPONZ online search engines. New Zealand Acts, Bills and Regulations are available via the Parliamentary Counsel Office websites.