The importance of doing business internationally grows more significant every year. It is important to remember that not only does international business open up a world of possibilities, it also comes with risks you might not have considered before. This makes understanding your international intellectual property rights and how to fully protect your products and ideas all the more vital.
Intellectual property rights are exclusive rights given to creators to protect their creations for a specific period of time. These rights are granted through multiple different methods, including copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Before you can successfully export your products internationally, you must ensure that your products are fully protected through the right methods and in the right countries.
Trademarks and Service Marks
According to the USPTO, a trademark is “a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” Trademarks protect any logos or brand names you use on your goods. This makes it illegal for other companies to use the same logo, brand name, or service mark or one so similar that it is indistinguishable from your original, which is called counterfeiting. Once you have ensured your trademark is federally registrable and legally protectable, you can move forward with the registration process.
Depending on your product or service, you can either apply for a utility, design, or plant patent, which grants the inventor rights to their invention. Utility patents are granted for the invention or discovery of a new and useful machine, process or article of manufacture. Design patents are granted when a new and original design for an article of manufacture is developed. Plant patents can be granted when a new variety of plant is discovered.
Copyrights give artists or authors control of the presentation, production, and portrayal of their original works. These original works usually include but are not limited to literary, musical, pictorial, graphic, or audiovisual creations. Copyrights protect your expression of a fact or idea; however, copyrights do not protect any underlying fact or idea, as patents or trademarks might. Copyright infringement occurs when someone else uses these original works without permission and are usually resolved using direct negotiation or litigation in civil court.
In a perfect world, you would be able to select “ALL” under countries when registering for a patent, trademark or copyright. Unfortunately, that is not quite how the process works. When you register for any of these intellectual property rights in the United States, they acquire protection only within the U.S.
When it comes to patents, you are required to register within each country or regional patent office. Copyrights follow the same pattern, however, the Berne Convention (which was adopted in 1886) has created a set of minimum protection standards to be granted throughout over 170 countries around the world.
Trademarks also require separate registration for every country, but differ from patents and copyrights in one major way: the Madrid Protocol. An international trademark application can be filed using this system for protection within over 120 countries. From here, you can modify and renew your global trademark in many countries throughout the world by using just one centralized system.
For More Information
Whether you are in need of intellectual property rights nationally or internationally, be sure to educate yourself on the processes and the requirements involved. Hiring an attorney to help you find your footing and make it through this large undertaking can be extremely beneficial.
Having the proper intellectual property rights is essential for exporters, especially when international business is involved. Visit www.USPTO.gov to learn more about the registration process for the methods above and the protection these methods can provide.