How important is Intellectual Property in hospitality?

You might think that Intellectual Property doesn’t really apply to your hospitality business. After all, you’re not writing a book, creating artwork or producing music. But it could be more important than you think.

Intellectual Property covers a whole range of tangible and intangible business assets.

Here are some of the ways Intellectual Property could be an important consideration for your hospitality business:

Registering your company name and web address

If you’re starting a new hospitality business, it pays to check the New Zealand Companies Office register to see whether the name you’re thinking of is already in use. You should also do the same for your preferred domain name, checking with the Domain Name Commission. If they’re not in use, you can register them for your own company.

Make sure you also check and register your name on any social media platforms you plan to use too. Your name is one of your most valuable assets in business, so put the effort in at the start to make sure you can use your name consistently across all platforms.

Trademark your brand to protect your identity

Building a brand is hard work in any industry. It takes time, effort, commitment and more often than not, a fair amount of money. In the highly competitive hospitality industry, it’s a crucial way of distinguishing yourself from the competition. Your brand - whether it’s your name, logo, slogan or even the uniforms your hotel staff wear, or the signature cocktail in your bar - can all be trademarked to protect them and stop your competitors copying them.

Trade secrets that build competitive advantage

Do you have a secret recipe you use that sets your restaurant apart? Does your accommodation business have a special way of doing things that nobody else knows about? If it adds real economic value to your business, it’s considered a trade secret and it’s protected by Intellectual Property law.

The best way to protect your trade secrets is to not tell anyone, but if that’s not practical - for example if your kitchen staff need to know the ingredients to your secret recipe in order to make it - you can use confidentiality agreements to ensure they don’t tell anyone else.

Intellectual Property for hospitality franchises

The hospitality business has a high number of franchise businesses, from chain restaurants, takeaways and cafes, to motels and accommodation providers. A franchise agreement will generally have an Intellectual Property clause, allowing the franchisee to use the franchisor’s IP such as the name, logo, colours and trade secrets, but ensuring the franchisor retains ownership of those assets.

As you can see, there are lots of ways that Intellectual Property laws apply to hospitality businesses. To quickly check registered business names, trade marks, web domains and social media, use the OneCheck service available from