New Zealand - Country Commercial Guide
Selling to the Public Sector

Describes how major projects are secured and financed. Explains activities of the multilateral development banks in and other aid-funded projects.

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 particular 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. 

While the U.S. government stands ready to assist, rights holders must take these fundamental steps to secure and enforce 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 lawsuit.  In no instance should U.S. government advice be seen as a substitute for the responsibility of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.

New Zealand is not included on the USTR’s annual Special 301 Report watchlist.

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

The U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statements provide information on the business climates of more than 170 economies and are prepared by economic officers stationed in embassies and posts around the world.  These statements highlight the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in foreign economies.  To access the ICS, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statement website.

The IP Contact for New Zealand is:

Name:    Cheepchanok Chernkwanma, IP Specialist

Address: U.S. Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand

E-mail:  CChernkw@trade.gov