A trade mark can be a brand, colour, device, heading, label, letter, name, numeral, shape, signature, smell, sound, taste, ticket, or word, that distinguishes one person’s or company’s goods or services from another.

When you launch your business, it is important to ensure that you have taken the correct steps to protect your brand’s trade mark. Without doing so, you run the risk of someone copying your brand.


Registering your trade mark provides a wide range of benefits such as:

  • Exclusive right to use the trade mark throughout New Zealand;
  • Legal protection to deter others from trying to imitate your brand;
  • Allows you to use the ® symbol;
  • It adds value to your business as your mark becomes established in your market; and
  • Protection for ten (10) years, at which stage it is renewable. 


Before launching your brand, it is vital to check no one else is using it or has previously registered it as a trademark. Otherwise, you may run the risk of infringing on another’s intellectual property right.

It is recommended to search both the trade mark register and the market-place to ensure there are no impediments to obtaining registration. If the mark is not being used or is not similar to existing marks, then you should be able to begin your registration.  

However, if you notice that the same or similar mark already exists on the trade mark register, registration may still be possible depending on class.

For example, a clothing brand, let’s say “X,” may already be on the register under class 35 (for clothing). If you also wanted to use “X” you might be able to still register it provided it is not registered in class 35.

During the application process, it is crucial to register under the correct class(es) and to include accurate and extensive specifications relating to how you wish to use the mark. Without doing so, it is likely you will not have the best protection possible.

Not all trade marks are capable of protection. For example, a brand that describes the services offered under it will be considered “descriptive” and will generally (at least initially) not be able to be registered. There are other exceptions to registration which you should be aware of prior to applying as they may prevent your application from progressing.

Approval or Objection

Once your application has been filed, the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand will examine your application. Then (usually within around fifteen working days) IPONZ will either approve your mark or object to its registration.

If your mark has been accepted, it will be advertised in the Office Journal for three months. This gives third parties the opportunity to oppose your trade mark application.

If your mark has been opposed, it is likely IPONZ will send you a report to advise you what is behind the rationale of its decision. It could be either the mark is descriptive, incorrectly classified, non-distinctive, offensive to Māori, or otherwise. If this is the case, you can respond to IPONZ to provide legal reasons why your mark should still be registered.

It is recommended to seek legal advice before you launch your brand. Your lawyer will be able to advise you whether there are any impediments to obtaining registration and ensure that your mark is registered properly to give you the most robust protection possible. Also, if there are any objections your lawyer will be able to respond to IPONZ in an attempt to gain approval on your behalf.