Intellectual property abroad

IP Abroad

Bill Russell is Head of Bilateral Relations at the UK Intellectual Property Office, the official government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights in the United Kingdom. 

What is Intellectual Property?

Most successful businesses, large and small, are built on well managed intangible assets or intellectual property (IP). McDonald’s® has used their IP to establish franchises across the globe, while Coca Cola’s® secret recipe and trade mark logo have stood the test of time and kept their product on the shelves.

For companies like these, the value of their IP, whether it’s a trade mark, patent, design, copyright or trade secret, far outweighs the value of their physical assets.

When should I consider getting IP protection?

Intellectual property rights are territorial. You should consider getting IP protection if you want to trade overseas or sell to foreign customers via the internet. Start by developing an international strategy, identifying your markets, business goals and resources. Your overseas target markets could be members of IP treaties and conventions. These can make it easier to protect your IP abroad.

How do I protect my IP?

Protecting and managing IP abroad can be very complex. We strongly recommend you seek help from an IP attorney or other professional IP advisor.

You should take some time to consider the realities of exporting and the implications for all aspects of your business. Be aware of any help you might need. Department for International Trade (DIT) can work with you to help you succeed in international markets.

How much does protecting my IP cost?

Depending on your budget and countries of interest, you will need to decide whether:

  • to file separate IP applications in individual countries
  • or make use of an international agreement which allows you to file in several countries through one application

Knowing whether your IP can be used and protected in another country is an important part of your strategy. You don’t want to spend money developing and protecting IP if it turns out that it is already registered in one of your major foreign markets. Similarly you don’t want to export to a country where you may infringe someone’s IP.

Translation costs can be very expensive. You will have to translate all your documents and correspondence into the official language used by that office. Your IP attorney will be able to brief a foreign attorney on your behalf.

The fees for obtaining and maintaining IP rights vary from country to country. There are some differences between countries in the legal requirements for obtaining IP rights. Your patent, trade mark or design may not qualify for protection in all your markets of interest.

Where can I get advice?

Detailed guidance on all your options for protecting your IP abroad is available from the IPO. The guides contain information on all aspects of international protection on:

You can find out more about exporting your IP on the IPO’s website and Open to Export also has articles on copyright abroad, European and international trademarks, and protecting your business online.

Topics: Protecting IP Abroad
Export Action Plan