When venturing into the unknown waters of foreign markets, it’s vital that you protect the assets and intellectual property that form the foundations of your company’s offering. One of the most misunderstood areas for businesses going global is fully understanding the risks of intellectual property in international markets. That’s why here you’ll find some advice about intellectual property before going international.
Intellectual Property (IP) is an essential and valued resource. From patents and copyrights to industrial designs and trade secrets, IP can be the distinguishing factor and main driver of revenue for an organization. Intellectual Property is a general term for the set of intangible assets owned and legally protected by a company from outside use or implementation without consent.
Your business’ IP can easily be some of the most valuable information and property in your possession. Aside from your branding assets and trade secrets, IP rights can:
There are many aspects to your company’s IP that can be protected. These include your company name, logo, tagline, designs, and inventions. Explore the various options for protection in your target country. Better yet, work directly with a legal partner with direct expertise in your country and ensure you’re fully protected.
In many, if not most countries, trademark rights are obtained only through registration. For example, in the U. S. and some other countries you can establish common law trademark rights through use of a mark. While registration provides important benefits that are not available to unregistered marks, there is some protection available for unregistered marks. But many countries follow the first to file rule as to who can claim rights in a trademark.
Because trademark protection is territorial, having trademark rights in one country doesn’t give you rights in other countries (unless you are fortunate enough to own an internationally famous mark). For that reason, it is important to register your trademark in those countries where you need trademark protection. Ideally, you would register your mark or marks in every country where you want your mark protected. But trademark registration can be expensive, and you will need to balance the need for protection with your budget.
When faced with choosing where to register trademarks, you should prioritize by country where you want to seek trademark protection. You should also prioritize your marks. Is it more important to have your primary mark registered in a large number of countries, or to register a number of marks in fewer key countries?
Make your list based on where you are currently doing business, or where you plan to do business, and then you can increase your registrations as your budget allows. It’s often also advisable to register your trademark defensively in certain countries to prevent anyone else from registering your mark.
We hope you found this approach useful in how your company could approach international IP protection.