Hidden gems: a guide for New Zealand manufacturers to discovering your intellectual property

Article  \  24 May 2024

The manufacturing industry, with its high-tech innovations and sophisticated processes, offers a wealth of intellectual property (IP) opportunities that you may not realise you have. For advanced New Zealand manufacturing companies aiming to be successful on the global stage, enhancing your understanding of IP is essential. Here are some tricks for how you can identify and protect your innovations.

Enhancing IP awareness

Have you considered closely looking at the underlying technologies and methods you use? Sometimes, the most valuable IP isn’t immediately obvious. During an IP audit, you will probably uncover a variety of IP assets that you may not have initially realised were valuable or protectable. These hidden gems can significantly enhance your company’s IP portfolio if properly identified and managed.

It’s beneficial to train your team not only in basic IP principles but also in the specifics that matter in your industry, such as software innovations or the particularities of new material patents.

Recognising your IP

Think about the specialised equipment you use; for example, like robotic assembly lines, laser cutting systems with enhanced precision, or advanced CNC machines that integrate artificial intelligence for optimised performance. These aren't just tools; they can embody unique innovations that may qualify for patent protection. If you’ve made minor tweaks and enhancements to existing equipment to significantly improve performance or efficiency, they could be patentable.

The clever ways you combine materials or the new techniques you use in production, such as additive manufacturing, or the use of nanotechnology for surface enhancement in materials, are golden opportunities for IP protection. These can be safeguarded through patents or kept confidential as trade secrets, depending on what suits your strategy best. You might use unique, optimised processes for manufacturing that have evolved incrementally over time. You should consider formally documenting those improvements and considering IP protection for them.

Your products might feature innovative designs or integrate technologies in a new way. Protecting these through patents, design, and trademarks can add significant value to your business.

Developing a sector-specific IP strategy

Once you’ve identified your IP, it’s important to mix and match your IP protections effectively. You can use patents for breakthrough technologies, keep critical processes confidential as trade secrets, and copyright your software.

You can also use your IP to collaborate with others by licensing your technologies, or even forming joint ventures, particularly in thriving overseas markets. Make sure any collaboration, be it with suppliers, clients, or research partners, is covered by agreements that protect your IP and clearly outline terms for usage and rights in case of disputes.

If you think you have identified something protectable, keep it confidential and non-commercial, then get advice from a patent attorney who is experienced in manufacturing and advanced technology. They’ll work with you to determine your options for protection.

Keep an eye on patent applications that are filed in your field and also consider searching existing patents and applications. Not only will it let you know what your competition is up to, it will give you information that might affect your own operations.

By adopting these strategies, your company can not only protect its innovations but also strategically enhance its position in the global marketplace. This approach ensures your IP assets are fully recognised, optimally protected, and actively contributing to your success in the exciting world of advanced manufacturing.

Keeping on top of your IP portfolio and identifying new opportunities for protection can be time-consuming and, at times, confusing. At AJ Park we have a team of specialists who can do the hard work for you, leaving you free to focus on what you do best. Reach out to us to find out more about the ways in which we can help you turn your ideas into assets.

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