A patent is rights granted to protect an invention. Owning a patent means having the legal right to prevent others in New Zealand commercialising an invention – although this could necessitate taking them to court, which could be costly. It does not have to be proved the invented product was copied, only that the same process of making it has been used commercially without your permission.
The main kinds of inventions that can be patented are:
- useful products that are new or improved
- new or improved processes that can be used in industry
- new computer technologies.
A fee is paid to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) when applying for a patent, and it will only be granted if an invention is:
- Novel, i.e. not previously known in New Zealand (see also the glossary term: Confidentiality agreement). IPONZ has special arrangements for permitting the public display of inventions at events such as science fairs, prior to applying for a patent. Certain procedures must be followed (check the IPONZ website well before your event) and the patent must be applied for within a specified time after the display.
- Not obvious – it must show an inventive step.
The patent will be granted for four years. It can be renewed regularly up to a maximum term of 20 years, after which the patent expires.
This term is used in all technological areas.