Intellectual propertyi Brand search
If a foreign franchisor owns any trademarks and wishes to register them in New Zealand, a search must be made of the trademark register, which is administered by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). The Trade Marks Act 2002 governs registration of all marks capable of registration, including trademarks or service marks. A search can be made at www.iponz.govt.nz, but it is wise to instruct a trademark and patent attorney in New Zealand to undertake a thorough search at IPONZ to ensure that the way is clear for registration of a foreign franchisor's trademark.ii Brand protection
Assuming that the trademark is available, protection for it is afforded by filing an application and paying the requisite fee. IPONZ issues an application number, which is the unique trademark registration number for New Zealand. In relation to manuals and other intellectual property owned by a foreign franchisor, except for patents that are restricted, there is copyright protection under the Copyright Act 1994 and copyright exists at law with no registration required.iii Enforcement
If trademarks have been registered, registration prevents any competitor from lawfully using the same or similar mark on any goods or services in New Zealand. Trademark registration would also prevent a subsequent registration of an identical or confusingly similar mark. If a third party breaches a registered trademark, action would be taken pursuant to the Trade Marks Act 2002 and the Fair Trading Act 1986. There are also remedies for breaches of the intellectual property of a franchisor that are not governed by the Trade Marks Act 2002 but are found in common law.iv Data protection, cybercrime, social media and e-commerce
With the increasing use of e-commerce and social media in franchise businesses, franchisors must ensure that they observe the privacy principles contained in separate codes and in the Privacy Act 1993, which outlines how businesses should collect, use, store and disclose information about clients and customers. Other relevant law includes the Crimes Act 1961, which deals with crimes involving computer systems, and the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007.