A patent protects an invention. This is defined as a product of human ingenuity that has useful or commercial application. An invention must be new and not be obvious. Examples of inventions that can be patented include: a method of preserving food, a building component, a system for interactive wagering, a water trough, a fastening device, an extract from a plant and a concrete mixture.


A trade mark is a sign which distinguishes the goods or services of a business from those of other traders. As well as acting as a "badge of origin" trade marks also fulfil important guarantee, advertising and promotional functions. A trade mark may comprise a word, logo, slogan, numerals or any other sign. Sometimes even a shape, sound or smell can act as a trade mark.
Trade marks are valuable business assets and are the foundations on which strong brands are built.


Copyright protects original literary, artistic, musical and dramatic works. Literary works include books, brochures, labels, software (including both source and object code), multimedia and computer databases. Artistic works include films, photographs, sketches, plans, drawings, packaging and three-dimensional models.


Registered designs protect novel features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation which appeal to the eye and are not dictated solely by the function of the article.  Registered designs are available for three dimensional articles such as consumer products, and for two dimensional articles, such as wallpaper, textiles and packaging.  An application for a design must be made before the design is used or shown to others.  Registered designs are available both in New Zealand and in many overseas countries.


Domain names are the means by which people can locate information about organisations and products on the Internet.  As a valuable business asset they should be protected. There are two main types of domain name:

  • generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), such as .com and .biz, which reflect an international presence; and
  • country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs), such as .nz and .uk, which reflect a presence in, or association with, a particular country.


A plant variety right protects a novel plant variety. The holder of a registered PVR has the exclusive right to sell seed or reproductive material of the new variety or to license others.  The plant variety must be have at least one characteristic that distinguishes it from other publicly known varieties.  Examples are novel fruit, a distinctive flower, unique leaf shape or improved disease resistance.