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IP Basics- Should I protect my intellectual property abroad?

Written by Ellis Sweetenham on 30 January 2016

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To have intellectual property rights which you can rely on is invaluable to your business.

However, it is essential that the rights you have extend far enough to cover the area in which you do business.

While many people may have intellectual property rights in the UK, they may be unaware of the need for them across other countries.

If you are looking to expand your business globally in the future, it is essential you are in the know on how you need to protect your IP.

There are different steps you need to take, depending on what intellectual property you are interested in.

In relation to trade marks, you have a number of options in relation to registration. You can register your mark as an UK mark, a Community Trade Mark that covers you in all 28 member states of the EU, as well as extending to international protection through the Madrid System. These have differing price tags as well as differing rules as regards to the application process. The best way to successfully register a mark abroad is through the aid of the experts, Lawdit Solicitors.

A similar process is used in relation to patents. To gain protection for a patent is notoriously difficult, let alone extending it internationally. To protect your patent in Europe, an application has to be made through the European Patent Convention. You can also get protection in Europe using the Patent Co-operation Treaty. Both ways require a high level of evidence which can be costly and time consuming to collect. You need to consider whether extending your protection is worth the time and hassle it will incur. You can also gain international protection for your patent through the PCT. Again this needs to be carefully considered as it is very expensive.

Protection for designs is also available overseas. To register your design in the EU, you will need to make an application for a Registered Community Design. This application is done through the Office for Harmonisation of the Internal Market (OHIM) which is the EU’s equivalent of the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. In addition, through The Hague System you can complete an international application for a number of countries. There is no need to apply in each individual country, The Hague System only needs a single application.

As copyright protection in the UK develops automatically and doesn’t require any registration, the situation for international protection is different to the other types of IP. The UK is a member of several international conventions from which you can gain protection in various countries. These conventions include:

-          Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works

-          Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations

-          World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT)

-          WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT)

-          Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

These conventions cover the majority of countries that a business would be interested but for clarification, it is best to get expert advice.

To conclude, you need to consider whether expanding globally is something your business will be doing in the future. If it is a definite yes, then you need to be proactive with protecting your IP in case someone gets there before you. If you are unsure, it may not be worth the cost and time.

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Ellis Sweetenham quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

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