Copyright Protection of Functional Objects in New Zealand

(2016) Intellectual Property Quarterly 297-317

31 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2019

See all articles by Alexandra Sims

Alexandra Sims

University of Auckland Business School

Date Written: August 19, 2016


Functional objects, such as skis, chainsaw chains, kiwifruit trays and even pregnancy testing devices, are protected by copyright in New Zealand. Albeit the object itself is not protected by copyright, rather the drawings and other works underlying such objects are protected. Functional objects create challenges for copyright law and are not protected as broadly as more creative and expressive works: the designer of an office chair faces limitations imposed by physics, the artist painting a chair on canvas has no such obstacles. It is common for drawings that are necessary for the object to be manufactured to be done by people who did not generate the idea for the functional object. Sometimes the drawings will have been commissioned, other times not. Questions of ownership of drawings for functional objects can arise and then there is the question of infringement. This article explores the issues of commissioning, ownership and infringement of functional objects in New Zealand through the lens of litigation over a machine cup for an automatic asparagus grading machine.

Keywords: copyright, commissioning, functional objects, infringement

JEL Classification: K29, P14

Suggested Citation

Sims, Alexandra, Copyright Protection of Functional Objects in New Zealand (August 19, 2016). (2016) Intellectual Property Quarterly 297-317, Available at SSRN: or

Alexandra Sims (Contact Author)

University of Auckland Business School ( email )

12 Grafton Rd
Private Bag 92019
Auckland, 1010
New Zealand


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