New Zealand - Country Commercial Guide
Protecting Intellectual Property

Provides advice on IPR protection, including information on the registration of patents and trademarks.

Last published date: 2022-07-31

Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property (“IP”) rights in New Zealand.  First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP.  Second, IP may be protected differently in New Zealand than in the United States.  Third, rights must be registered and enforced in New Zealand, under local laws.  For example, your U.S. trademark and patent registrations will not protect you in New Zealand.  There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a country depends, basically, on the national laws of that country.  However, most countries do offer copyright protection to foreign works under certain conditions, and these conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions.

Granting patents is generally based on a first-to-file [or first-to-invent, depending on the country], first-in-right basis.  Similarly, registering trademarks is based on a first-to-file [or first-to-use, depending on the country], first-in-right basis, so you should consider how to obtain patent and trademark protection before introducing your products or services to the New Zealand market.  It is vital that companies understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and that the U.S. government cannot enforce rights for private individuals in New Zealand.  It is the responsibility of the rights’ holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, retaining their own counsel and advisors. 

Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in New Zealand law. 

While the U.S. Government stands ready to assist, there is little we can do if the rights holders have not taken these fundamental steps necessary to securing and enforcing their IP in a timely fashion.  Moreover, in many countries, rights holders who delay enforcing their rights on a mistaken belief that the U.S. Government can provide a political resolution to a legal problem may find that their rights have been eroded or abrogated due to legal doctrines such as statutes of limitations, laches, estoppel, or unreasonable delay in prosecuting a law suit.  In no instance should U.S. Government advice be a substitute for the responsibility of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.

In any foreign market companies should consider several general principles for effective protection of their intellectual property. For background, please link to our article on Protecting Intellectual Property and for more resources.

IP Attaché Contact for New Zealand
Name:                   JoEllen Urban
Address:                U.S. Embassy, Bangkok
                              Room 302, GPF Witthayu Tower A, 93/1 Wireless Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Telephone:            66 2-205-5913