Intellectual Property: The Risk of Inaction

Copyright, in its simplest term, refers to the rights bestowed through legislation to protect an individual or business from their work being unlawfully replicated. They bestow rights to the owner in relation to specific activities surrounding the use and communication of copyrighted material. To satisfy the eligibility criteria of being awarded a copyright, several conditions must be satisfied, including that the ‘work’ must fit into one of the set categories of copyrightable materials; it must be original; the individual(s) or businesses charged with creating must be qualified to do so; and the ‘work’ must be in some type of written form for verification processes. Copyright law covers a wide range of categories, including literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works; musical works and broadcasts; goods, services, business processes, brands and the like.

Of increasing importance in today’s knowledgeable economy is protecting your own and your business’s intellectual property (IP). New Zealand is party to the international TRIPS Agreement, which is a specific legislation relating to trade related aspects of intellectual property rights. The internet, and its ability to spread and disseminate information at ever increasing rates, and with increasing ease of access, has created an environment where protecting IP has never been so vital. The risk of releasing new ideas, products or designs without the proper intellectual property registration can result in infringements of existing copyright patents. In New Zealand, violating IP laws may result in large monetary demands to resolve the situation, while additional losses may be experienced in relation to the advertising and marketing activities surrounding the product or brand promotion. Furthermore, with the correct intellectual property protection in place, there is the risk that some other organisation may copy the idea, repackage the product or design, and earn market share and revenue from your work.

It is strongly recommended that thorough searches are conducted through patent and copyright databases prior to commitment of resources to develop and protect IP. This is to ensure that the concept being developed does not infringe on any current patents, as well as provide valuable information in relation to similar or competing ideas. This knowledge is then utilised to further develop the concept, idea or product to better satisfy the market being targeted and differentiate the concept to not only develop a unique selling proposition, but to differentiate the concept from other patented intellectual property.

This process can be time consuming, with those not familiar with New Zealand IP law and the tools to search for existing patents, running the risk of not accessing complete knowledge on the numbers and types of current copyrights which relate to the concept in question. The best way forward is to utilise a reputable and professional company which specialises in copyright applications. This will ensure that your intellectual remains under your ownership, while avoiding any expensive litigation which may result from copyright violations.

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