Bringing your products and services to international markets has never been more accessible than it is today. This has been largely driven by rapid developments in technology, greater global connectivity, and the boom in popularity of e-commerce. Accordingly, many businesses seek to capitalise on this opportunity in order to drive growth. How your IP is managed can play a vital role in the success of such growth.
Some key points you should consider in relation to your intellectual property before conducting business abroad are:-.
- Plan Ahead
It is never certain what the future holds. Whilst you may only intend to operate your business in the UK at present, you may find that your goods and services become popular in other markets. With this in mind, it is worthwhile devising a long term strategy for protecting your IP internationally if you ever plan to sell abroad.
- Identify Markets
IP rights are territorial and so you should consider the key markets you intend on operating in. Obtaining patent, trade mark and design registrations abroad can be costly, although most of the main markets (e.g. the EU, USA and China etc.) are party to international treaties, such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Madrid Protocol for trade marks, which allow you to protect your IP in many countries under the umbrella of one central application. This can cut down considerably on costs and allow you to obtain IP protection strategically in the countries of interest.
- Secure rights
Seeking IP protection before exporting internationally will likely save considerable time and costs. Many countries operate first to file policies. You may wish to conduct clearance searches to ensure that your IP is available to use in a particular country. By planning ahead you will avoid committing IP infringement and the considerable costs associated with rectifying it. Additional protection of trade marks in the local language may also be desirable.
- Third parties
Trade mark ‘squatting’ is a common problem, particularly in China, whereby a company or individual will register a trade mark already in use overseas. The best way to prevent this is to apply to register your mark in the country as soon as possible, and ideally before you enter the market, as registration costs will be considerably less than the cost to buy your mark back.
Additionally, for many distributors in foreign markets it is vitally important to them that you have your IP rights registered before they will enter in to any agreements. Ensuring that any trade marks, patents and designs you own are protected abroad before approaching distributors will put you in a strong bargaining position.
If you are exporting or considering doing so, and wish to speak to a trade mark or patent attorney to find out more on the action you can take in relation to your intellectual property to assist, please contact us.