What is a patent?

A patent is a personal property right granted for an invention, material or process (i.e. how something is made).

What exclusive rights do I have over my patent?

Having a patent over an invention means that you have an exclusive right, during the term of the patent, to “exploit” the invention.

The term “exploit” in relation to an invention means:

  •    To make, hire or sell the product;
  •    To offer to make, hire or sell the product;
  •    To use or import the product.

This means that others cannot make, hire, or sell your product.

In relation to a process, it means to use the process to create the product and to do anything in the above list in relation to that product.

Do I have to apply for a patent?

Yes, you do have to apply for a patent in New Zealand. You can apply on the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand website. The current cost of application is $250.00.

Do note that your rights as a patent holder only exist in New Zealand, and if you want your product to be protected overseas, then you will need to apply in the relevant countries.

What is a patentable invention?

In order for an invention to be patentable, it must be considered novel when compared to the prior art base (i.e. must be new) and must be invented by a human (as opposed to Artificial Intelligence).

It must also involve an inventive step, it must be useful, and it must not be contrary to a public order or related to treatment by surgery or therapy, diagnosis or biological processes of human beings.

Some examples of patentable inventions are: new pharmaceutical drugs; the production method used to create a specific product (say, a type of confectionary); a new type of container or box; the ornamental design for a yacht etc.

What kinds of inventions, materials or processes have been rejected?

Patents will be rejected if they do not reach the criteria set out above. While most patent rejections are not publicised, there are a few well-known examples.

The first example was a patent application for a male swimsuit which had previously been modelled by Sasha Baron Cohen (also known as Borat). This patent application failed due to it not satisfying the criteria of novelty, given that the application had been filed in 2008, two years after the Borat film was released.

A second example of a rejected patent application was the food and beverage container invented by Artificial Intelligence. In this case, the application was rejected because there was no human inventor.

Another example of something that is not patentable is a trade secret. This is important to note because a trade secret may have information of commercial value to a business, such as the formula for KFC’s coating on its fried chicken, or the recipe for Coca-Cola. While these secrets are often crucial to the success of the enterprise, they are not patentable and need to be protected through other means, such as non-disclosure agreements.

How long do I have exclusive rights over my patent?

A patent can last up to twenty years in New Zealand, however, it is important to note that you must pay renewal fees. These are due at the end of the 4th, 7th, 10th and 13th years of a patent. If a renewal fee is not paid within six months of its due date, the patent will lapse.


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