Protecting Your Intellectual Property Abroad

nternational expansion can greatly benefit a business, but it also increases the need for security and compliance in certain areas – including your intellectual property rights. Here, Galvin International’s experts offer advice on protecting your intellectual property when doing business abroad.

What is Intellectual Property?

The World Intellectual Property Organisation defines intellectual property as ‘creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.’ Protecting your intellectual property (IP) in law will usually involve obtaining a patent, copyright or trademark which allows you to earn recognition or financial benefit from your creation.

Although some of these will be of greater concern for businesses than others, the issue of intellectual property rights is one that will be especially sensitive to SMEs, who will not wish to allocate precious time and resources on bolstering the security of their intellectual property against infringements.

Perhaps the most important IP factor to consider for international expansion is that protections are territorial. UK protections will often only apply within the UK, for example – meaning that people in other countries may be able to use your UK registered IP without technically infringing upon your rights. If you are thinking of expanding your business overseas, you’ll need to consider registering your intellectual property in your target market to discourage infringement.

The process will vary from country to country – some will allow you to extend your UK protections after completing local formalities, while other countries will require you to start the registration process from scratch. Before you implement your expansion it is highly advisable to thoroughly research the requirements of your target country, but it may also be useful to decide whether your application for IP protection will be best made nationally or regionally.

National & Regional Applications – Understanding the Difference

National applications will involve applying directly to the country you wish to protect your intellectual property in. The application process will differ according to the country in question – for instance, registering a patent in China without a registered Chinese office will require your business to go through an officially designated agent who will personally deal with your application.

In many cases, international IP applications will need to be made in the native language of the target country. As applications can be complex, highly detail-oriented affairs, it may be necessary to seek the advice of an expert with fluency in the required language.

Regional applications are made through a range of bodies and organisations that deal with IP rights across entire regions – such as the European Patent Office, the African Regional Industrial Property Office and the Eurasian Patent Office. These are more likely to be submitted online.

If you’re operating across a large number of markets or plan on expanding further in the future, there are also a number of useful methods to reduce the number of individual applications you need to make. Patents can be filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which covers protection in 148 different countries. Similarly, trademarks can be protected under the Madrid Protocol via a single application with WIPO, which will disseminate individual national or regional applications on your behalf.

How Can Galvin International Help?

Protecting your intellectual property overseas can be a complex, time-consuming affair. At Galvin International, we untangle the complexities of international expansion to make the whole process more efficient. Included in our extensive range of legal advisory services is advice on protecting your IP. As well as helping you to understand the application process in your target market, our customised concierge service can put you in touch with the right local knowledge and secure any necessary legal representation, so that threats to your intellectual property’s security are dealt with swiftly at the source.

Get in touch to find out more about how we can help you build a solid, compliant legal foundation from which to achieve global growth.



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