If you are considering exporting a product to or providing a service in another country, it may be prudent to take steps to protect any copyrights, patents and/or trademarks you may already have in the United States in those international markets in which you seek to do business. That is because any patents, and/or patents you may hold in the U.S. don’t necessarily hold up abroad.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, some estimates put the cost of infringement on intellectual property rights in international markets at $250 million annually.
What is protected can vary according to the market. Typically, copyright laws can provide protection in foreign markets. However, protecting patents and trademarks in other countries can be a different story altogether. In order for them to be afforded protection, they will need to be registered in the country or countries where a company seeks to expand its business.
Also, it is important to understand that filing for protection may not be appropriate for all businesses: Circumstances for determining what type of IP protection is best for a particular business may be complex and vary according to the company in question.
With that in mind, the U.S. Small Business Administration suggests asking the following questions to determine whether seeking international protection is appropriate for your business:
- Will I be conducting business outside the U.S.?
- Do I think I will ever export my product overseas? Do I think I will ever manufacture my product overseas?
- Can I afford international IP protection? If so, in what markets would my product most likely be commercially sold?
- What forms of IP are available to me?
- What is the likelihood of my product being copied abroad?
One way of working through these questions is to consult with legal counsel to arrive at a business intellectual property rights protection strategy, one that can be incorporated into any global business plan.