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Overview of Patent Law in New Zealand

New Zealand patent law is based on the Patents Act 1953 as recently amended by the Patents Amendment Act 1994.

Patents are obtainable in New Zealand for "any manner of new manufacture", a phrase given a very wide interpretation. Anyone wishing to introduce a new product or technology to New Zealand or protect an invention by a patent in New Zealand is advised to have a search conducted at the New Zealand Patent Office to provide an indication of what has been done in the same field previously. If the invention appears to be one which is novel and patentable, a patent application may be filed at the Patent Office, accompanied by either a provisional or complete patent specification describing the invention. The documents must meet formal requirements, and a fee must accompany the application. When the application is filed with a provisional specification then a complete specification must be filed within 12 months.

Once all the formalities are completed, a complete specification is examined by the New Zealand Patent Office. The examination will assess whether the invention is novel in New Zealand at the date of priority, and will also check that the specification meets the conditions for grant of a patent. For example, a complete specification must describe the invention and method by which it is to be performed, disclose the best method for performing the invention known to the applicant and for which the applicant is entitled to claim protection, and must include a claim or claims defining the scope of the invention.

A New Zealand patent application is published in the New Zealand Patent Office Journal only after acceptance. There is a 3-month opposition period and, in the absence of opposition, the patent is granted. The patent term is 20 years from the date of filing of the complete specification.

A New Zealand patent is a limited monopoly granted by the Government to make, use, exercise and sell an invention and its products for 20 years, subject to payment of renewal fees at intervals. Those who infringe patent rights are liable for damages and other penalties. Equally, the Patents Act 1953 provides protection against the abuse of patent rights.

New Zealand is a party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property which enables a person who has filed a patent application in one Paris Union country to claim priority from that application in any subsequent application for the same invention filed in another Paris Union country within 12 months of the first application. In New Zealand such a subsequent application must be accompanied by a complete specification, together with a certified copy of the original application filed abroad.

New Zealand is also a member of the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) and can, therefore, be included as a designated country for patent applications filed by this route.

Both computer hardware and software may now be patented in New Zealand, whilst computer programs, databases and multimedia products may be the subject of copyright protection. Layout designs and integrated circuits receive a separate type of copyright protection under the Layout Designs Act 1994.

New Zealand has independent legislation for the protection of plant varieties, under the Plant Variety Rights Act 1987, and is a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV), adhering to the 1987 UPOV Convention. A Plant Variety Right gives the proprietor exclusive rights of commercialisation of their variety for 20 or 23 years.




(as at January 1996 exclusive of GST)

Application Filed [with provisional specification] $1,000
1 Year $1,350 File complete patent
2-3 Years Examination
3.5 Years $670-$1,350 Prosecution and Acceptance
4.5 Years Granted Patent
5 Years $220 First Renewal Fee
  Further fees due at 7, 10 and 13 years and expiry at 20 years from the date of the patent.
NOTE: These estimated charges are only indicative. They will vary according to the technical nature of the invention and the novelty of the invention.  

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