If you trade in a product or service and you want to stop other people exploiting your ideas, you should consider applying for intellectual property (IP) protection overseas as well as in your own country.
Business takes place globally and, increasingly, even small businesses are operating beyond national boundaries. The Internet is accelerating this trend.
Do I need protection overseas?
Intellectual property (IP) rights are territorial and your national protection will not extend to other countries. Where registration is necessary for you to assert your IP rights, it generally needs to be applied for in each of the separate countries in which you want protection.
If you export – or plan to export – your goods or services you should seriously consider extending the trade mark, patent or registered design protection you have in your own country to the countries in which you are selling.
Register your trade mark overseas
If you want your trade mark protected overseas you usually have to make applications to each of the separate countries in which you want protection. But there are two exceptions to this which can make the application process easier and cheaper for you.
Applying for a patent in other countries
A national patent for your invention only applies in your national country. For protection overseas you need to file an application in each of the separate countries in which you want protection.
But the process can be simplified by making a single application through one of two international treaties.
International Unit of the Patent Office
It checks your form and forwards it to the European Patent Office or the World Intellectual Property Organisation. If you use either of these routes, the International Unit of the Patent Office in the UK acts as a receiving office.
Copyright protection overseas
Your copyright on original literary, artistic, musical and dramatic work is automatically protected in the vast majority of countries worldwide under their own national law. This is the result of a number of international treaties signed by the E.U. Countries and administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
There is no international copyright registration system, although some countries, such as the USA, do have copyright registers. Registration with these can help you in a copyright dispute.
Design protection overseas
Within European Union (EU) countries, you have automatic design right on the appearance of your original items. This lasts for three years from the design being made public.