Story: Inventions, patents and trademarks

From bungy jumping to the seismic shock absorber, from jet boats to the jetpack, New Zealanders are known for their ‘no. 8 wire’ inventiveness and ingenuity. In 1900 the country had the world’s highest per-capita number of patent applications; in 2009 inventions included an ultrasound device that measures growing trees, and a blanket to help save stranded whales.

Story by Mark Derby
Main image: Cartoon of aviator Richard Pearse

Story Summary

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Perhaps because New Zealand is so far from the rest of the world and many goods were not available, New Zealanders have always invented things. This ingenuity is sometimes called the ‘no. 8 wire’ tradition, meaning that New Zealanders can make or fix anything using no. 8 fencing wire.

Patents

Inventors can protect their rights over an invention by applying to the government for a patent. In 1900 New Zealand had the world’s highest number of patent applications per person. In the 2000s patent law also recognised Māori values.

Trademarks

Trademarks (brands or logos) can also be registered to stop other people using them. Well-known trademarks include Edmonds ‘sure to rise’ baking powder, which has a picture of a rising sun; Swanndri waterproof woollen shirts; and jandals.

Inventive people

Māori were skilled weavers and carvers. They designed and made impressive voyaging canoes, stone weapons and fortified .

Later, engineers, tradespeople and others invented tools and machines to help with their work.

  • Engineer Cecil Wood built his own car in 1897.
  • Plumber John Hart invented the Thermette, a device that encloses a fire for boiling water outside.
  • Housewife Norma McCulloch invented a hand pump to suck air out of freezer bags.

Bungy jumping

The best-known New Zealand invention is the bungy jump, developed by A. J. Hackett. He made a famous bungy jump from the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1987. In 2010 many countries had bungy jumps.

Farming inventions

Inventions to make farming more efficient include:

  • sheep breeds – Geoffrey Peren developed the Perendale breed, which produces good meat and wool. F. W. Dry bred the Drysdale sheep, with hairy wool suitable for making carpet
  • aerial topdressing – spreading fertiliser and sowing seeds from light aircraft
  • electric fences, invented by farmer Henry Gallagher.

Transport inventions

Transport inventions include:

  • a flying machine patented in 1906 by farmer Richard Pearse
  • the Superbike, John Britten’s racing motorbike, which literally used no. 8 fencing wire
  • the Aquada, a car that can pull up its wheels and become a boat, invented by Terry Roycroft
  • the jetpack, a tiny one-person aircraft, invented by Glenn Martin.
How to cite this page:

Mark Derby, 'Inventions, patents and trademarks', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/inventions-patents-and-trademarks (accessed 22 July 2018)

Story by Mark Derby, published 11 Mar 2010, updated 24 Feb 2015