Search and preliminary advice

Search and preliminary advice

If you’re unfamiliar with the trade mark registration process, we recommend you apply for a search and preliminary advice report first.

Before you request a search and preliminary advice (S&PA) report, you can use Trade Mark Check to see if trade marks like yours already exist on the NZ Register.

S&PA reports provide you with an initial assessment of whether your desired trade mark is likely to comply with two important areas examined under the Trade Marks Act 2002 (the Act):

  • Search report: Our examiners will search the register for you to see if the trade mark you want is already registered by someone else.
  • Preliminary advice report: Our examiners will tell you whether your proposed trade mark is unique enough to your industry that it can act as a trade mark.

After receiving the report from us, you can then decide whether you’d like to stop, change, or proceed with your trade mark application. We'll hold to our preliminary advice decision for three months from the date your S&PA report is issued.

If you apply to register your trade mark within three months of the date your S&PA report was issued, your fee will be reduced. In order for the discount to apply, your application must be based on your S&PA request and the details must be exactly the same as what we have assessed.

For more information about S&PA request and trade mark application fees, please visit our Trade Mark Fees page.

Note: An S&PA report will only provide you with advice for the trade mark as represented, and only for the specified goods and services terms.


The term BUDGET SUPERMARKET for retail services in relation to food and household items is unlikely to distinguish one particular trader from any other in that trade channel. The term could be used by many traders in describing the nature of their business, and as a consequence the ordinary shopper would not associate the term with any one trader.

Marks that simply describe the goods or services they are used for will often not be distinctive. For example, the word APPLE cannot be registered as a trade mark for fruit. This is because APPLE does not distinguish the goods of one trader from another, as it is a generic name for a particular type of fruit. However, APPLE® is distinctive in relation to computers.

Phrases that are commonly used in relation to the specified goods or services that a mark is being applied for may not be distinctive under section 18 of the Act. A colloquial or generic term that commonly describes the goods or services also may not be registrable. For example the phrase EXTRA SUPREME is commonly used to describe a pizza with many toppings and would not be registrable as a trade mark in relation to pizza.

Before you apply

You will need to supply the following information to make sure you receive an accurate assessment in your search and preliminary advice report:

1. Clear description of your trade mark

Prepare a clear description of your trade mark. The list below can help you identify the nature of the mark and a suitable method of representation:

  • Word – any combination of words, letters or numbers
  • Image – an image only
  • Combined – an image containing text
  • 3D – a single image showing different perspectives of the mark, labelled with the view they are taken from (ie top, side, etc.)
  • Animation – a graphic representation and a written description of the animation
  • Colour – an image showing only a single colour. Colours must be described by referencing a recognised colour system, eg “the trade mark consists of the colour yellow (Pantone® 111C)”
  • Sound – an image that represents a sound such as a score, graphical sound wave or a piece of musical notation, accompanied by a description of the sound
  • Smell – a written description of the smell and how it will be applied.

Note: A plain word mark is generally preferable to a stylised word logo, because it protects the words in any style. A logo primarily protects the words in their stylised form. 

2. Suitable image

If you are applying for an image or combined mark you will need to include an image in your application. You can attach a representation of your mark as a .jpg or .gif file. Images must be under 4,000 pixels wide and 5,000 pixels high.

3. Specification

When you request an S&PA report you need to include a list of all the goods and services you intend to use the trade mark for. This is called a specification of goods and services.

Your specification will also need to list the class or classes that the goods and services fall in. This is referred to as the classification of your goods or services. See more information about classifying your goods and/or services.

Charges for trade marks are per class, so the more classes in your S&PA request the higher the fee will be.

To find pre-approved goods and services terms for your specification use our Trade Mark Specification Builder. You can save or export a copy of your results from Trade Mark Specification Builder for future reference.

4. Name and address details

If you're the applicant, you'll need to supply your name and address details. If you're applying for a business or for someone else, then have these name and address details ready.

5. Translation or transliteration of foreign words/characters

If your mark contains foreign words or characters, you should enter a translation and/or transliteration of the words or characters. A transliteration is a transcription indicating how the characters are pronounced in the language they originate from, and a translation is the meaning of the word in English.

For example, for the mark 日本語, a transliteration of the Japanese characters is NIHONGO, and the translation into English is `Japanese’.

Apply for a search and preliminary advice

To apply for a search and preliminary advice report:

    1. Login to our case management facility by selecting the Login button at the top right of this page. (Find out more about becoming a registered user of our case management facility.)
    2. Under the Trade Mark section, select Apply for a Search and Preliminary Advice. The Apply for a Search and Preliminary Advice page displays.
    3. Reference section: Enter a reference for this request that you will recognise, such as ‘MyCompanyName S&PA’.
    4. Identity section: select “In my own right” if this request is for you or your organisation. If you are applying on behalf of someone else select “As an Agent”.
    5. Enter your Goods and services specification (see Classifying your goods and/or services).
    6. Mark Type:
      • If you are applying for a word trade mark, choose Mark Type ‘Word’, and, enter the words in the Mark Name field
      • If you are applying for a combined trade mark (an image and words, or stylised words), choose Mark Type ‘Combined’, and enter the words featured in the image in the Mark Name Choose ‘Add Image’ in the Picture section to upload the image.
      • If you are applying for an image trade mark, choose Mark Type ‘Image’. Choose ‘Add Image’ in the Picture section to upload the image.
      • Other types of trade mark: Choose the required type and include the description and attachments where necessary as mentioned above
    7. Note: You can Save your request and return to it later. Do a final check before submitting your request – make sure you have entered all your details correctly.
    8. Select Submit.
    9. Pay your S&PA request fees.


Next steps

We'll produce the S&PA report and email you when it's ready to view in our case management facility. Our current request timeframes are listed on our Timeframes page.

You’ll be told if your trade mark is registrable under the two sections covered by the S&PA report. This will help you decide if you want to:

  • submit a trade mark application
  • consider making a new S&PA request with different details
  • take no further action.

If you file a trade mark application within three months of the date your S&PA report was issued, your fee will be reduced. Your application must be based on your S&PA request and the details must be exactly the same as what we have assessed.