A patent protects the way something works, and may be granted for any new invention, i.e. the same invention cannot have been described or used anywhere in the world prior to the filing date of the patent application.  Furthermore, a patent cannot be granted for an “obvious” modification of what has been published or used before.

Some subject matter is specifically excluded from being able to be patented.  This includes plans and schemes and, in many countries including New Zealand, methods of medical treatment of human beings and computer software.

A patent lasts up to 20 years from the date the application is filed, subject to annual renewal fees being paid from the fourth anniversary of filing.

Please contact one of our patent attorneys for advice on whether your new invention may be able to be patented.


You cannot obtain a valid patent if, before you file your patent application, your invention is sold or publicised in any way.

If you have to discuss your invention before filing a patent application (for example if you need to check with consulting engineers, discuss with potential buyers whether there would be a market for the product, or get estimates for the cost of materials), you need to protect yourself by asking the person or company to whom you are disclosing the invention to sign a Non‑disclosure/Secrecy Agreement.

In theory, any confidential disclosure of an invention does not invalidate a later patent application, but it may be very difficult to prove that a disclosure was in fact made in confidence, unless you have a signed Non‑disclosure/Secrecy Agreement from that person.

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