International Intellectual Property (IP) Law is a patchwork area of intersecting multilateral and bilateral agreements and their resulting harmonization of national laws. It has become an increasingly important and frequently litigated area, particularly in the patent, copyright, and trademark areas.
In addition, in the past few decades, there have been louder calls for the protection of domain names, databases, software, and traditional knowledge. Many of these cutting-edge Intellectual Property issues are addressed on an international level through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Along with new forms of protection, the trend towards globalization in the trade arena has had a direct effect on the harmonization of national Intellectual Property laws through the World Trade Organization (WTO) and regional trade organizations. The international treatment of Intellectual Property rights involves to a significant degree both the traditional concerns of public international law (i.e. the law of nations) and the concerns of the ‘conflict of laws’ or ‘private international law’ with the problem of determining in what jurisdiction to pursue a private legal dispute and what law will be applied to it. Intellectual Property problems, in that sense, involve both foreign and international law.
Similarly, basic knowledge of public international law is an advantage, but not required.
While there is no common international copyright law, enforcement of copyright overseas is possible and even simple, as long as the target country is a signatory of the various international IP protection treaties, such as the Berne Convention or the TRIPS Agreement. Most signatory countries do not require registering copyrighted works, and confer protected status from the moment of creation. However, since everything ultimately depends on national regulations, you should always review the legal situation in the target country.
Many small businesses have difficulty protecting their IP rights overseas because they do not know how to obtain, protect, and enforce such rights in foreign countries. Some of the things that these businesses should do include: