Sealord Group Ltd: Intellectual property issues
The following questions were put to prosthetics developer Sealord Group Legal Adviser Victoria Reid in late 2007 by Susan Corbett, of Victoria University of Wellington, as part of her study, Intellectual property in Technology teaching, identifying intellectual property implications and issues that emerge from selected Technology Online case studies. Their replies take the form of edited reported speech.
Sealord Group Ltd currently has around 16 trade marks registered at the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand. Sealord is a global business and has subsidiary ventures in the United States of America, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. The name Sealord is protected in most if not all of the markets in which Sealord products are sold.
Once a new food product is out in the marketplace it is difficult to prevent it from being copied by other companies. There is no law that would prevent a competitor from analysing the contents of a Sealord product and reproducing it (unless a part of the process is novel and shows an inventive step – in which case it could be patented). Are Sealord's main marketing strategies to build up customer confidence in its brand reputation and to keep ahead of its competitors?
During the development and testing stages of a new product e.g. crumbed scallops, it is essential that competitors do not learn about the proposed new product. Are all Sealord employees bound by confidentiality agreements?
The actual person, who created the plans and outlines for the packaging, is the author. The plans and outlines are considered to be artistic works and will be protected by copyright. However Sealord will own the copyright by virtue of its contract with the author, regardless of whether the author is an employee of Sealord or a contractor, or the employee of an agency working for Sealord.
Does Sealord keep dated records of all plans and outlines as evidence that the company owns copyright in the final packaging?
Sealord retains dated archives of its designs and plans for packaging. If necessary, these documents can be produced as evidence (for copyright purposes) to establish that Sealord owns the copyright.
What arrangements are made with the graphic artists regarding the ownership of copyright in their graphic designs for the Sealord packaging?