Obtaining Patents in New Zealand and Internationally

Patents protect inventions. Inventions are not just physical objects. Even processes like manufacturing methods or software can be protected with a patent. Obtaining patents in New Zealand and internationally is an important part of your suite of intellectual property rights that protect your business.

Protecting your invention with a patent has five key stages:

  1. Search
  2. Applying in New Zealand
  3. Applying internationally
  4. Examination
  5. Maintenance

What you need

To get a patent, you need to have an invention. The invention must be novel (which means nobody has disclosed it before) and have an inventive step (which means that it’s not an obvious variation of what has been done before).


Before we start with your patent application, we usually perform a search to review the “prior art” (that is, any public information about similar technology). Based on this, we can help you assess your chances of getting a patent and what the scope of that patent might be. This lets you decide whether the applying for a patent is a useful step for your business.

A search adds some upfront cost to the patent process. But it can be well-spent, since it often improves your chances of getting a patent.

Some people skip this stage to save money or time. This is perfectly valid, but it comes with some downsides. A discussion with your favourite member of the Patents Team will help you decide whether this tradeoff is worthwhile.

Applying in New Zealand

Applying for a patent starts with preparing a patent specification. This describes your invention in detail, including how it works and how someone could make or do it themselves.

A patent application is first made by filing your patent specification at the patent office of a first country. We usually use New Zealand, since this is generally the cheapest option. Some people prefer the United States or Australia for their first filing: we can help you decide where is best based on your business goals.

Filing this patent application sets a priority date. The priority date is important for two reasons.

First, to get a patent, your invention must be novel and inventive based on anything made public before the priority date. This can even include things you have published yourself. But anything that comes after your priority date typically doesn’t count against you: this is why filing an application before you make your invention public is so important.

Second, the priority date also sets a deadline of 12 months for applying for a patent in other countries for the same invention. You’ll need to decide whether you want to protect your invention in other countries by then.

Applying Internationally

Once you reach this 12 month deadline from filing your first application, you need to decide how to protect your invention around the world.

There is no such thing as worldwide protection. Patents only apply in the countries you select. Many New Zealand businesses look at the United States, Europe, China, or Japan as their key markets, and so apply for patents in these locations. We can help you decide where patent protection is worthwhile.

There are two routes for applying around the world: Convention applications or a PCT application. There are pros and cons to each route. The Patents Team will help you decide which route works best for your business.


Once you have filed a patent application in your selected countries, a patent examiner will review your application and decide whether it complies with the requirements.

The key task for the examiner is look for prior art before your priority date. If your invention is known from the prior art or is an obvious modification over the prior art, the examiner may object to your application. This process usually takes multiple years in each country.

After the examiner agrees that your patent application complies with the requirements, they will grant you a patent. This patent lets you prevent other people from making, using, or selling your invention in that country.


Once a patent has been granted, most countries require an periodic renewal fees to keep the patent alive. If you pay all the fees, your patent will last for 20 years.

What next?

Ellis Terry are experts in IP in New Zealand. We have worked with many well-known New Zealand and international businesses to make the best use of IP. Get in touch with one of our patents team, and we will guide you through the patent process to help protect your business.