Christchurch: CBD – (03) 379 7690 | Ferrymead – (03) 940 2435 | Hornby – (03) 349 5111

Intellectual Property

Anything you think up is Intellectual Property (IP) – let us put the technical label on it. If you design, build, innovate or market, you have IP.

Intellectual Property (IP) is an important part of every business.  Whether you are choosing a name for your new company or product, finding a better way to operate equipment, or designing technical products, you should have an IP strategy.

Saunders & Co is different from most law firms because as well as helping you protect your brand, license your know-how, and enforce your rights, our IP department is headed by a Registered Patent Attorney who is qualified and experienced in protecting how things work and what they look like, and coordinating your protection strategy both in New Zealand and overseas.

Unlike most law firms, we provide a full range of services relating to designs, industrial copyright, and patents which can only be provided by a Registered Patent Attorney (“hard IP” services).  We also provide full legal services involving trade marks, creative copyright, confidential information, and trade secrets (“soft IP” services).

Because Virginia is both a Registered Trans-Tasman Patent Attorney and a Registered Australian Trade Mark Attorney, she is fully qualified to act directly to protect your IP both in New Zealand and Australia.  We also provide these services to our overseas clients and associates, and can provide our schedule of charges to overseas agents on request.

Some of the common types of IP you may want (or already have) are:

Confidential Information

such as customer lists, which should be protected in your employment agreements and commercial contracts

Creative Copyright

you have automatic protection for anything you write, draw, or photograph

Design Registration

protect the look of products with novel styling by filing for registration before you sell or disclose your design

Industrial Copyright

automatic protection in New Zealand for sixteen years for design drawings and prototypes (but in many overseas jurisdictions, notably Australia, this is not enforceable, so you need a different protection strategy for exports)


protect how things work, providing a 20 year monopoly for a novel and inventive product, process, or improvement, available in New Zealand and export markets (for maximum options internationally, apply for protection before any non-confidential disclosure or commercial use)

Trade Marks

most often your brand name, but also anything you use to identify your company – a logo, colour, shape, etc – are best protected by registration in any jurisdiction where you sell or manufacture

Trade Secrets

internal processes and procedures that can be kept confidential in-house, and covered in your employment agreements

Because the value of your IP is how you use it, our IP department works alongside our expert commercial teams, specialist tax advisors and employment lawyers, and litigation team to give you the legal tools you need to maximise the return on your good ideas.

The process may start with a consultation to discuss the specifics of your business, where the value of your IP currently lies, and options for improving your position.  We recommend conducting an “IP Audit” at least every five years.

External links to further information

Our IP Services for local clients include:

  • Protecting branding in New Zealand
  • Obtaining New Zealand patent protection
  • Overseas design and copyright registration
  • Brand protection overseas
  • International patent applications
  • Transfer of IP rights
  • Confidentiality agreements
  • Maintaining and renewing IP rights
  • Licence agreements
  • Challenging patent applications by competitors
  • Developing international IP protection strategies
  • Border protection against counterfeits
  • Infringement proceedings and dispute resolution
  • Advising on protection strategies for new products
  • Preparing IP for business sale

Examples of our recent work

  • Developing and implementing an international IP protection strategy for a new product range, and licensing to a large overseas distributor
  • Successfully convincing a competitor to stop infringing by negotiation, without needing to go to Court
  • Brand protection for a New Zealand export business

Get further advice from

Virginia Nichols

Senior Associate

Direct Dial: +64 3 963 1463
Mobile: +64 27 449 8893
Assistant: Michaela Combe
Office: CBD

As well as being a lawyer, I am a Registered Trans-Tasman Patent Attorney, and a Registered Australian Trade Mark Attorney.  I worked for over 10 years in specialist patent attorney and IP firms before joining the team at Saunders & Co in 2015.

I advise local clients looking to protect and exploit the intangible assets in their business.  This may include all aspects of intellectual property, from simple matters, such as protecting a company name, to the complexities of protection of designs, brands, ideas, and inventions through copyright, trademarks, and patents.  If disputes arise, I work with clients to pursue commercially realistic solutions.

I also work for international clients looking to protect and maintain their IP rights in New Zealand and Australia, and with our full commercial and litigation teams, offer support in developing their business interests in New Zealand and enforcing their rights here.

Working with our commercial teams, I have experience in licensing intangible assets, and work to cover issues with intangibles that may arise during the sale and purchase of a business, or entering a franchise or distribution agreement.  I also undertake civil litigation work in the District Court and High Court, as well as IPONZ hearings.

A key aim is to provide clients with clear communication and regular updates throughout what can be a complex and unfamiliar process.

My technical background is in a BSc(Hons) in Physics and ME(Elec) from the University of Canterbury. My post-graduate work was in the Nanostructure Engineering Science and Technology (NEST) group, focussing on the fabrication and characterisation of wide band-gap semiconductors, particularly Gallium Nitride, which was one of the first materials used to make blue LEDs, and can be used to make UV detectors.  I enjoy learning how things work, and identifying and resolving issues.


I specialise in the following areas:

What My Clients Say

“Welhaus engaged Virginia Nichols of Saunders & Co to work on a case where we argued another party couldn’t monopolise a generic name for a process. From the outset, Virginia’s confidence, decisiveness and expertise in the field were evident and she quickly presented us with some good, clear options for moving forward. We appreciated her evidence-based approach, specific knowledge of the subject and willingness to dig deeper into the matter. This greatly helped our decision-making process and resulted in a speedy conclusion, achieved in just a few days. The process even proved inexpensive given Virginia’s efficiency. The experience of dealing with Virginia and Saunders & Co was refreshing and I have no hesitation in recommending them to others.”
Dan Tremewan, Welhaus


“I’d like to take this opportunity to personally recommend Virginia Nichols, currently a Senior Associate with the Christchurch legal firm Saunders & Co. It must be said that Virginia is a unique and special person. She is not only skilled and very capable at her craft – but better still she actually listens to the client, finds out their total requirements and then efficiently moulds their needs into a strong legal format. Importantly she is not afraid to advise her clients where she believes an aspect of their demands may be unreasonable or inappropriate, doing so with caring and a gentle yet firm approach. Virginia sees herself as a regular down to earth individual with a burn to help others and make a difference. She truly does that in spades!”
Bill Rodger 


CBD: 131 Victoria Street, Christchurch, NZ

Ferrymead: Unit 2, 987 Ferry Road, Christchurch, NZ

Hornby: 5 Goulding Avenue, Christchurch, NZ

© Saunders & Co. 2020 Terms of Use Website design by Fox.
Back to Top