Intellectual property enforcement

If you own intellectual property, you are responsible for monitoring the way it is used and protecting it against infringement.

Legislative framework

A number of laws provide civil and/or criminal enforcement procedures for owners of intellectual property rights in New Zealand. They include:

  • Consumer Guarantees Act 1993
  • Copyright Act 1994
  • Crimes Act 1961
  • Designs Act 1953
  • Fair Trading Act 1986
  • Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006
  • Layout Designs Act 1994
  • Patents Act 2013
  • Plant Variety Rights Act 1987
  • Trade Marks Act 2002

Read these Acts in full on the New Zealand Legislation website(external link)

Civil enforcement

The intellectual property laws have provisions that impose civil liability for activities that infringe an intellectual property right. Civil liability means potential responsibility for payment of damages or other court enforcement in a law suit.

The owners of intellectual property rights (and in some circumstances their licensees) can take court action in response to alleged infringing activity.

The courts have a wide range of civil remedies available to them to compensate wronged owners. These include:

  • injunctions
  • orders for the infringer to pay either damages or account of profits
  • orders to hand over infringing goods to right holders (called “delivery up”).

Criminal offences and penalties

The Copyright Act 1994 and the Trade Marks Act 2002 also contain a range of criminal offences,  including for:

  • the infringement of copyright works in the course of business
  • counterfeiting of registered trade marks for commercial purposes.

A person convicted for such activity may be imprisoned for up to five years or fined up to $150,000.

The New Zealand Police, the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand and the New Zealand Customs Service can investigate and prosecute copyright pirates and trade mark counterfeiters.

Fair Trading Act 1986

The Fair Trading Act 1986 covers commercial activities relating to goods that infringe the rights of an owner of a registered trade mark. The Act imposes criminal liability for:

  • forging a trade mark
  • falsely using a trade mark or sign so it nearly resembles an existing trade mark, in a way that is likely to mislead or deceive
  • trading in products bearing misleading and deceptive trade descriptions.

The facts of each case will determine whether or not these provisions apply.

The Commerce Commission's role

The Commerce Commission enforces legislation that promotes competition in New Zealand markets and prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct by traders. The Commission doesn't give advice or take civil actions on behalf of intellectual property rights owners.

Consumers or businesses seeking compensation for a breach of the Fair Trading Act may also take a civil action through the Disputes Tribunal or the District Court.

Border control measures

The enforcement measures allow trade mark and copyright owners to ask the New Zealand Customs Service to detain suspected pirated and counterfeit goods at the border that are either being imported or are being trans-shipped through New Zealand. Detaining the goods lets the trade mark or copyright owners start court action for trade mark or copyright infringement.

However, border enforcement measures don't apply to goods imported by a person for their private and domestic use.

Information on lodging a notice on the New Zealand Customs Service website(external link)

Enforcement agencies in New Zealand

New Zealand Customs Service

Contact New Zealand Customs Service for copyright and trade mark infringement and enforcing the criminal offences for counterfeiting registered trade marks and copyright piracy at the border.

Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ)

Contact IPONZ about enforcement of criminal offences for counterfeiting registered trade marks and copyright piracy.

New Zealand Police

Contact the New Zealand Police about enforcement of criminal offences for counterfeiting trade marks and copyright piracy.