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Ministry of Education.
Kaua e rangiruatia te hāpai o te hoe; e kore tō tātou waka e ū ki uta

Intellectual property key terms: Patents


Patents protect an invention.

The main kinds of inventions that can be patented are:

  • a useful product that is new or improved
  • a new or improved process that can be used in industry
  • a new computer technology.

You pay a fee to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) when you apply for a patent.

Conditions of a patent

A patent will only be granted if an invention is novel – that is, previously unknown in New Zealand – and not obvious (it must show an "inventive step").

IPONZ has special arrangements for permitting the public display of inventions at events prior to applying for a patent.

This is true for Science fairs. The patent must be applied for within a specified time after the display. In addition, other procedures must be followed, so check the IPONZ website well before an event.

Note, too, that the patent must be applied for within a specified time after the display.

Length of a patent

A patent is granted for four years.

It can be renewed regularly up to a maximum term of 20 years, after which the patent expires. For example, the patent for James Dyson's bagless vacuum cleaner has now expired after 20 years. As a result, other manufacturers do not need his consent to make similar products.

Benefits of a patent

Owning a patent means having the legal right to prevent others in New Zealand commercialising your invention.

In some situations, the patent holder might need to take someone to court, which could be costly. In this circumstance, the patent holder does not have to prove the invented product was copied, only that the same process of making it has been used commercially without your permission.

Patents benefit everyone because they place information in public for others to develop.

Developed for the Technology Online site from a study by Susan Corbett, Louise Starkey and Ann Bondy, Victoria University of Wellington

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