Intellectual property is a term which refers to the ownership of an intangible thing - the innovative idea behind new technology, products, processes, designs or plant varieties, a brand, trade secret, or the goodwill associated with a business, product or service. The law recognises that these intangible assets are forms of property that can be sold, licensed, damaged or trespassed upon.
A patent provides protection for the ideas embodied in novel technologies, products and processes. Patents cover a principle or idea and not just a single physical form of an invention. The monopoly granted can be wide in scope and cover many variations of a basic product or process.
A design registration provides protection for aspects of the appearance of an article, such as its shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation. A design registration does not protect functional aspects of an article unless those aspects also contribute to its appearance. Functional aspects may be protected by patent.
Copyright is a property right which automatically exists in certain categories of original works. Copyright does not extend to ideas. It protects the particular way in which an idea is expressed. Copyright can be used to prevent one party from copying the product of another and is a useful supplement to registered intellectual property rights such as patents, designs or trade marks.
A trade mark may comprise any marking such as a word, label, phrase, symbol, logo, either singularly or any combination of these. A trade mark can also be a colour, shape or even a sound or smell if capable of being represented graphically. The purpose of a trade mark is to indicate a connection between certain goods or services and the trade mark owner.
New plant varieties are protectable in New Zealand. This protection extends to virtually any kind of plant (except algae and bacteria) which is new, distinct, homogeneous and stable. The owner of a plant variety right has the exclusive right to produce propagating material of the protected variety (and in some cases the fruit, flowers or other products of the variety) for sale.