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Kaua e rangiruatia te hāpai o te hoe; e kore to tātou waka e ū ki uta

Intellectual property in Technology teaching: Brief definitions: Patents

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; or
  • a new computer technology.

You pay a fee to IPONZ when you apply for a patent. A patent will only be granted if an invention is:

  • novel – ie, not previously known in New Zealand (see confidentiality agreements above). 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; and
  • not obvious – it must show an 'inventive step'.

A patent is granted for four years, but 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, and other manufacturers do not need his consent to make similar products.

Owning a patent means having the legal right to prevent others in New Zealand commercialising your invention – although you might need to take them to court (which could be costly). You do 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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