New Zealand: Playing with the big boys – using IP strategy to position yourself in international markets

Last Updated: 19 April 2011
Article by Kate Wilson

It can be difficult to compete on the international stage when you are comparatively small, distant from your markets and have high labour costs – like many New Zealand companies.

Many Kiwi exporters have realised that to be competitive they need to be innovative, not only in their product design, branding and service delivery, but also in their intellectual property (IP) strategy. 

Some important lessons can be learned from successful New Zealand companies: 

  • Do your research, know your markets
  • Have good innovators and train them in IP
  • Link your research and development (R&D) to market niches
  • Position your IP strategy around the market, not the product
  • Present your IP portfolio such a way that others can see its value
  • Meet regularly with an IP strategist so they are aware of upcoming R&D and market feedback.

The following stories of three innovative Kiwi businesses are potent examples of how the correct IP strategy can make a big difference. 

Bomac Laboratories Limited

Bomac practises clever thinking and this was a major factor in its attractiveness to global giant Bayer, which recently purchased the Kiwi company.

It is a New Zealand-based export business operating in animal health space, largely concerned with selling veterinary products.  Bomac's main competitors are scarily large, including the likes of Pfizer, Merial, Shering Plough, Fort Dodge and Jurox.  These competitors are not only large in terms of market domination, but also in terms of R&D and IP budgets. 

Bomac has been able to go up against the big boys through a range of smart practices.

The company knows its competitors well, studies the markets and is incredibly strategic in terms of knowing where to position itself.

Bomac also has a group of highly innovative formulation chemists and works with internationally recognised animal health researchers.  Consequently, Bomac creates a plethora of new products in a comparatively static market. 

Its R&D team has received training in IP law and also consults with James & Wells to determine whether something it is developing is likely to infringe specific IP rights overseas. 

Many supporting patent applications are drafted around a "sweet spot", say consumer preferences, which give Bomac an edge over competitors which may have the same active ingredients, but in a less usable form. 

Bomac has kept a close eye on the IP landscape and designed its R&D and commercialisation strategies accordingly. 

For example, every month Bomac receives a report on their competitors' IP activities in New Zealand (Bomac's main manufacturing base).  The validity of competitors' rights are analysed and a strategy devised as to whether to contest them, leverage a deal, proceed as normal or divert its R&D program. 

It is also crucial that Bomac's managing director has monthly meetings with its James & Wells IP strategist. This means its IP law advisors are aware of all the company's goals and  international business strategies.

As a consequence of these factors, Bomac has built up a international IP portfolio including more than 40 patent families filed selectively across 10 countries. 

Bomac's IP portfolio is represented in a product based file format. Each product listing includes the associated business goal, all the registered IP including status, independent patent claims and minutes concerning IP decisions surrounding that product. 

When Bayer came knocking on Bomac's door, a similar document was used to showcase its valuable intangible assets.  And, after considerable due diligence into all aspects of Bomac's business and extensive negotiations, Bomac became Bayer's only acquisition in 2010.  This will result in a significant ongoing investment in New Zealand business.

Sensortec Limited

Sensortec's innovative thinking attracted the interest of Lely - one of Europe's largest manufacturers of agricultural equipment - which bought the company last year.

Lely's aim is to leverage Sensortec's R&D capability worldwide - which again is a coup for New Zealand innovation. 

Sensortec develops animal health sensors, largely for use with milking machines, but with considerable potential elsewhere.  It has a small team of talented researchers and has developed a significant IP portfolio.

Sensortec had its IP portfolio in a format which made it easy for Lely to assess Sensortec's R&D capability value. 

In its early days, Sensortec insisted that each of its researchers spent two hours a week conducting patent searching.  Consequently they gained a wealth of knowledge on their competitors, existing technology and the patent minefield.  That guided Sensortec's initial R&D direction and led to it carving a niche. 

Since then, Sensortec keeps a 'New Ideas' register and has brainstorming sessions with its researchers and IP strategist so that IP issues can be factored in at the start of an R&D project. 

Like many companies, Lely has a formal notification process relating to new inventions requiring input not only as to the nature of the invention, but the market and associated IP issues.

Sensortec's post buy-out IP law meetings focus on capturing the significant amount of intellectual property it is creating and looking at how that aligns with market niches identified by Sensortec and Lely. 

Gallagher Group Limited

Finally, Gallagher Group is recognised as a world leader in animal management (particularly electric fence energisers) and security systems. 

Like the other companies, its competitors are large and IP savvy.  It is a highly competitive international market and has changing regulations requiring considerable R&D in order that Gallagher's products are compliant. 

Its products are distributed to about 130 countries, and it has more than 60 different patent families protected selectively across 17 countries.  Its trade marks and design portfolios are equally impressive.

Gallagher knows its markets incredibly well and this guides all of its IP decisions.  As it has a mature IP portfolio, it is relatively easy for the company to ascertain the value of a product in a particular market before investing further - such as payment of renewal fees.

Again, regular IP law meetings are incredibly important in capturing the new R&D Gallagher is developing and making decisions on the future of a patent family depending on market feedback. 

Gallagher also documents its IP portfolio in a similar manner to Sensortec and Bomac.  However, this is not for showcasing the IP to potential purchasers - instead, it is used internally as a tool for relevant staff. 

Despite its size and complexity, Gallagher's CEO is actively involved in critical IP decisions, working directly with the dedicated IP manager.  This high-level recognition of IP as a valuable asset has lead to Gallagher winning an NZTE award for New Zealand's top IP commercialisation in 2009. 

Having a strong focus on a IP strategy places New Zealand's most innovative companies in a position to gain incredibly valuable sales or market dominance - and in some cases attract the eye of global giants looking to invest in this country.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

James and Wells is the 2010 New Zealand Law Awards winner of the Intellectual Property Law Award for excellence in client service.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Kate Wilson
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.