Protecting your intellectual property (IP) can cover anything from trade secrets to branding and falls into one of four categories: trademark, patent, design or copyright. While UK law provides protection for your IP within the borders of the British Isles, it generally offers no help if you want to trade in a foreign country.
Because IP can sometimes be your most valuable asset, it’s essential that you register for protection in every territory in which you intend to do business. If you don’t, it can be perfectly legal for foreign entities to infringe on your IP without fear of consequence. If you are thinking of expanding abroad, here are four tips to keep in mind:
If you are considering doing business in the EU, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) offers a route to registering your trademarks and designs, while EU patents are handled by the European Patent Office (EPO). For businesses trading in the US, China, India and a number of other major economies outside of the EU, the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office has a library of IP guides to help make sense of the labyrinthine IP laws in each country. For any other territory, the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) has a list of country IP offices sorted alphabetically.
If you are working across a large number of different countries, in some cases it’s possible to file for international protection using a single application. The Patent Cooperation Treaty allows you to seek patent protection in 148 countries simultaneously, while the Madrid Protocol covers trademarks in 120 countries worldwide with only one set of fees. Bear in mind, however, that these require your trademark to already have been established in the UK first.
For businesses working within South East Asia, China, Brazil and India, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office can offer help and advice through its IP attachés. These officers are experts on local IP matters and can act as effective intermediaries to make sure you get the protection you need. They can also help guide you when it comes to enforcing your rights, offering a list of local investigators, lawyers and other embassy staff that can assist your case.
Securing your IP rights in different territories means using each individual country’s laws to both protect and enforce against infringement. That means using local legal experts and engaging legal translators with the skills and experience to properly transpose your documents from UK law into the target country’s legal system. This can make a vital difference when it comes to successfully enforcing your IP rights.