How to Protect Your Intellectual Property in International Markets

How to Protect Your Intellectual Property in International Markets

One of the most misunderstood areas for businesses going global is fully understanding the risks of intellectual property in international markets. In the US, intangible assets such as trade secrets and branding have limited protection. As complicated as IP is in the US, think accounting practices and assessing value for intangible assets, it gets even more gray overseas.

Intellectual Property in International Markets

As mentioned, protecting your IP rights in the States is fairly straightforward. The US has clear language for regulations concerning patents, trademarks, and copyrights. The problems begin when you try to obtain rights overseas.

The biggest dilemma is managing the varying laws in each individual country. While a particular region may have protection agreements, each country regulates the actual protection differently. The differences can even vary down to the type of IP.

For example, copyrights may be handled differently than trademarks. Although there isn’t a common or global copyright protection, it’s possible to protect your copyrights overseas if your target country is a signatory of the various international IP protection treaties. Common treaties include the Berne Convention or the TRIPS Agreement.

Importance of Protecting Intellectual Property in International Markets

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:

  • Give your company a competitive advantage
  • Provide a potential revenue stream
  • Define your processes and workflow
  • Assist with your marketing strategy

There are many aspects to your company’s IP that can — and should — 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. That will ensure you’re fully protected. While we’re on the topic, check that you’re protected domestically as well.

Understanding the Risks

You now know that IP rights are territorial and do not extend to operations in your new country. You will need to apply for protection in each country of operations. If you have vital information, which most companies do, this should be one of the first steps on your list during international expansion.

Simple ways to protect your IP overseas include:

  • Partner with a local attorney to legally protect your IP under the country’s guidelines
  • Register your IP in your target country via patents, trademarks, etc.
  • Be careful when working with independent contractors. Establish clear language in agreements and understand IP probably not protected in labor courts.

The final point is imperative and a risk many employers can easily forget. Contractors are risky overseas. If they create materials or brand-specific information on the job, they can argue that the information belongs to them and not your company.

In order to efficiently manage intellectual property in international markets, especially when working with independent contractors, work with a partner.

For example, Foreign Subsidiary as a Service (FSaaS) establishes a legal presence in your target market and helps you manage compliance. It’s a fast and affordable option that allows you to start up operations without the full commitment of a permanent subsidiary. Don't worry about your compliance. It's taken care of, including IP protection. So you can worry about developing your growth strategy. Contact us to learn more!

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