Kate Duckworth
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I wish that I had bought shares last year in a ventilator company, a breathing mask company, a hand sanitiser company, and a toilet paper company. Although, what is everyone going to do with the hoardings of toilet paper? Unless COVID-19 has some sort of effect on your gastro-intestinal tract that I don’t know about, there is no need to use more toilet paper under lock-down.

In times of disaster, tragedy, emergency (you get the picture), there is opportunity. Technologists have the time and there is a need to communicate and track people, movement, behaviour, disease, viruses, and bacteria differently. Some cool technology has and will continue to emerge as a result of lockdowns and physical distancing.  A client of mine already had an app that was initially developed for keeping caregivers and children connected – KAWAW – Know About Where and When. This is an area that will continue to flourish.

Some seemingly inappropriate trade marks have been filed as people seek to monopolise on COVID-19. Trade marks have been filed around the world for “COVID-19”, “physical distancing” and “social distancing”. This seems bad taste, right? I hope Chris Hipkins has applied for a trade mark for “Spread Your Legs New Zealand”. Mind you, if I hear “pivot” one more time I will petition the government to ban it as a trade mark. 

There has been incredible work that has gone into vaccines for COVID-19.  Governments have fast-tracked normally slow and cumbersome drug approval procedures to “get jabs in arms” as the New Zealand government likes to say.  Not only have we become armchair immunologists and vaccinologists, we all know a lot more about patents since vaccines for COVID-19 have been developed and patents applied for.  We have seen innovative approaches to sharing of technology including vaccine companies offering the vaccine at cost, sharing of vaccine supplies between countries, and the COVAX scheme with the aim to provide equitable access to vaccines.

We face uncertainty and adversity. We worry about our jobs and businesses. We worry about toilet paper, flour and yeast. There are opportunities though, particularly intellectual property. It is easy to retrench and say now is not the time to invest in intellectual property. That couldn’t be further from the truth because new technologies and new opportunities will emerge and the economy has bounced back before and will bounce back again from this current outbreak.

Opportunists will prey on those who sit on their hands during vulnerable times. You could find your business and your intellectual property portfolio exposed when the bounce comes again if you don't look after it now. A bit like my sourdough starter. If you nourish it, it will grow, they say.

Timing is critical for intellectual property. You don't get a second chance at filing a patent once you have disclosed the invention or innovation. Trade marks are VERY hard to get back if an opportunist nicks your good idea. You don't get to wait until COVID-19 is over.

Last year taught us that the economy can and will bounce back and we need to grow, nurture and protect our intellectual property.

If this article has raised any questions from you, our IP expert Kate Duckworth is here to help! Just drop her an email at or call her on 04 916 7496.  

Disclaimer: The information contained here is of a general nature and should be used as a guide only. Any reference to law is to New Zealand law and legislation. We recommend before acting on it, you consult your accountant or tax adviser