January 19, 2022

2022…New Year…New Idea? New IP?


“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” (Victor Hugo)

It was a glorious afternoon. The sun was shining, and a gentle breeze blew across the sea as you enjoyed a fine Pinot Gris. Then it hit you…bam! The idea for the new product you’ve been searching for!

Or perhaps it was morning, and while tucking into your scrambled eggs and sipping your steaming Americano it came to you…wham! The idea for a new service that will really see your business take off!

Whatever the circumstances, if you were inspired over the Christmas and New Year break to do something new, then I recommend (if you haven’t done so already) to undertake some IP due diligence before investing further time and money in your idea.

If your idea is for a new product, then here are some issues you might need to consider:

  • Do you know if your product exists already? Have you conducted any Internet searches, for example, to see if it does? Have you searched the patents, designs and trade mark databases of the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand to see if the way your product works, or your product appears, is already protected?
  • If your product does exist already, at least in general terms, what makes your product ‘new’? Does it involve a new way of making or doing something, or does it just look different to the competition?
  • If your product doesn’t exist already, have you told anyone about it? If you have, did you get/need them to sign a non-disclosure agreement before telling them? If you have involved any third parties in the development process so far, have you signed non-disclosure agreements with them?
  • Have you made any drawings for your new product? If you have, then have you kept them somewhere safe? It might be early days, but have you made any prototypes and shown or tested them in public as yet?
  • Are you planning on making the product yourself, or sub-contracting manufacture? If the latter, are you planning to make your product in New Zealand or overseas – perhaps in China?

If your idea is for a new service, then issues you might want to consider are:

  • Do you know if anyone else is offering the same or similar service to your existing and potential customers?
  • If someone is already offering a similar service, what makes your service different? Is it underpinned by revolutionary software, or does it involve a new model of delivery?
  • If your service doesn’t exist already, have you told anyone about it? Did you get/need them to sign a non-disclosure agreement before telling them? If your new service involves a third party developing software for you, for example, do you know who owns the software code?

Whether your idea relates to a product or a service, another issue you might need to consider is the name of your new product or service and the corresponding domain name (if applicable). If you have some name options in mind, have you conducted any domain name or Internet searches to see if someone else if using an identical or similar name? Have you searched the trade marks database of the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand, and perhaps the New Zealand Companies Register, too, for identical or similar trade marks and company names? If you are thinking you will want to export your product or service in the future, have you also searched the trade marks databases of the overseas countries you might want to sell into?

As you can see from the questions I’ve posed, having an idea is just the start of your IP journey. Do not be deterred, however, because if your idea is one whose time has truly come, we at James & Wells will do everything we can to help you on your journey.

This article was first published in the Bay of Plenty Business News January edition.

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