Intellectual capital is crucial in gaining a competitive edge in the local and international marketplaces. From the individual inventor to the multi-national company, technological advancement and globalisation present unparalleled opportunities to maximise intangible assets.

Last year, the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand reported the highest number of national trade mark filings since 2009. The burgeoning demand for protected and enduring brand names was a global trend. The United States Patent and Trademark Office experienced a 4% increase in national filings, while in Asia the growth was even more pronounced.

The Madrid Protocol fostered an unprecedented upsurge in applications for international trademarks. The Protocol, which came into effect in New Zealand in December of 2012, is a cost effective process of protecting trade marks overseas. It allows Kiwi companies and individuals with a basic trade mark application or registration in New Zealand to file for international registration, designating up to 89 member countries.

Given the patchwork of varying intellectual property systems that currently exist throughout the world, the Protocol serves as an invaluable tool for harmonisation. There was a 4.1% increase in Madrid applications last year. China received the most designations, followed by the European Union and the Russian Federation.

As the value of intellectual property grows, so too does the threat of misappropriation. Effective strategies of commercialisation and management are integral to success in an increasingly competitive market. For policymakers, a comprehensive international legal framework will be an on-going challenge. This is especially true in developing countries, where half of all trade mark applications were filed in 2012. While strengthening laws have increased investor confidence, issues of counterfeiting, piracy and border control still threaten customer trust and the perceived quality of trade names and products.