New Zealand businesses examining intellectual property assets, rights

12 October 2020

New Zealand businesses examining intellectual property assets, rights

New Zealand is one of the few countries which came out successful in its battle against the novel coronavirus Covid 19.

Just recently, the country triumphantly beat the virus for the second time after a second wave of cases broke out in Auckland in August.

Yet, like the rest of the world, New Zealand’s economy is affected by the pandemic.

To address this challenge, companies in New Zealand – many of which have experienced sliding sales numbers - are finding ways to manage costs, retain workers and keep themselves afloat. One of the ways they’re doing this is by examining their intellectual property assets and IP rights.

“Those businesses are often abandoning rights, delaying new filings or being far more selective in what they choose to protect. The value of the IP rights needs to be more easily definable to immediate business needs for many of these companies,” said David Macaskill, a senior associate at James & Wells in Hamilton and Tauranga.

“Other businesses are using their IP to help their business respond to the challenges posed by Covid-19. They are looking to leverage those rights to secure new customers, enter new markets or protect a new business model,” he added.

According to Macaskill, Covid-19’s impact on cash flow and new projects has affected their clients who are working with third parties to develop IP rights. These third parties are R&D or design companies, some of which have laid off staff, gone into hibernation or closed.

“When our clients have engaged these companies to develop new technology, it has been a challenge to ensure that the rights to the technology are assigned to our client. As a result, we’ve been working with lots of companies to address IP ownership early in the development process,” he said. 

One client explored the opportunity to expand its IP strategy which emphasizes the critical roles of people, skills and team in meeting business goals. The company hired people from an engineering firm who were otherwise going to be made redundant. Macaskill said this move by the client ensured that they have the necessary skills to succeed in this challenging business environment.

“IP rights define what sets a business apart from its competitors,” he said. “Ownership of that advantage in the current challenging business environment is critical. In addition, monetizing assets via licensing and technology transfer deals is becoming more relevant to survival and success.”

Macaskill added that their firm has noticed many businesses tapping into their IP assets to generate new, passive revenue streams or leveraging new partnerships. 

In the article “IP strategy and portfolio management during an economic crisis” which appears in James & Wells’s website, Macaskill wrote, “We’ve seen in the United States that Ford has started producing respirators to meet local demand.  Australian company Medtronic has openly shared the IP rights to its portable ventilator and is rumoured to be partnering with Tesla to help meet the demand for its products. Closer to home, there are the distilleries who are changing from gin and whisky to hand sanitiser. The lesson here is to identify where you can add value; understand your core capabilities and skill set and ask how that can be used to solve customers’ problems. They don’t even need to be your current customers.”


Espie Angelica A. de Leon

Law firms

New Zealand

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