January 16, 2024

2024…new year, new opportunities?


First published in Bay of Plenty Business News January 2024 edition

“Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems” (Sun Tzu)

“Every time. Every, single, time. There has got to be a better way!”

So you grumpily say to yourself as another pair of trousers is ruined from spilt bleach.

Whatever the circumstances, if you are inspired in 2024 to solve a problem, I recommend you undertake (if you haven’t done so already) some IP due diligence before investing time and money in your idea. You might just save a bob or two…

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

  • Do you know if your product exists already? Have you conducted any Internet searches or visited any retailers to see if it does?
  • If you know how to, have you searched the patents and designs databases of the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand? If you have plans to export or licence manufacture overseas, have you searched any overseas databases?
  • If your product does exist already, at least in general terms, what makes your product ‘new’ or different’? Does it involve a new way of doing something, or is its shape and appearance different to what’s currently available? Is AI involved in some way?
  • If your product doesn’t exist already, and you need to talk to someone about it, are they willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement before you tell them? If you’ve already started the development process, have your collaborators signed non-disclosure agreements with you?
  • Have you made or do you need any drawings for your new product? If you have, did you write your name on them, date them and put 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?
  • What are you going to, or what do you want to, make your product from? Can the materials be ethically sourced and are they sustainable and/or recyclable?

Another issue you may need to consider is the name of your new product and whether you can register that name as a trade mark as well as a domain name for your website and email. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to conduct a search of the Internet and the database of the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (and any overseas database if, again, you have plans to export or licence manufacture) to see if there any trade marks which might prevent you from registering or using your preferred name.  You’ll also need to undertake a domain name search to see if you can register your preferred domain name. If you’re thinking just a search of the New Zealand Companies Register for identical or similar names will suffice, think again – it won’t.

You’ll also need to consider whether you can register your preferred name as an account name on any social media platforms you want to use, especially if you are planning on leveraging those platforms for sales.

As you can see from the questions I’ve posed and the tasks I’ve identified, having an idea is just the start of your IP journey. Do not be deterred, however, because if there is truly an opportunity in the problem you’ve identified, then we at James & Wells will do everything we can to help you on your path to victory.

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