At Williams IP Law, our legal professionals frequently are asked about protecting intellectual property rights in foreign countries. It’s not unusual to find that inventors and entrepreneurs hold numerous misconceptions about how patent and trademark systems work on a country-by-country basis.
For instance, it is a common misconception that obtaining patent and trademark rights in the U.S. grants rights that extend into other nations. However, this is not the case. Each country has a unique system in place for protecting patents and trademarks. In the case of Europe, it is possible to obtain rights across the European Union or in specific countries in which coverage is desired.
This means that if a company is doing business in another country, then it may make sense to obtain patent and trademark protection in that foreign country. As an example, consider an American company that is selling products at home and in Peru. That company would want to protect its intellectual property in the US as well as in Peru and in any other country to which they are shipping products.
The same may be true for a company that is having its products manufactured in a foreign nation. Intellectual property protection may be sought in the country of manufacture, such as Malaysia, and in the U.S. where the products are sold.
Accordingly, it makes sense to stay informed with regard to changes in the intellectual property laws of foreign jurisdictions. These changes frequently have the effect of offering intellectual property right holders greater protection than they had before.
Let’s take a look at some unfolding developments in other jurisdictions around the world.
New Protections for Small Businesses in the EU
A cooperative effort between the European Commission and the European Union Intellectual Property Office, or EUIPO, is offering critical financial assistance to Small and Medium Enterprises, otherwise known as SMEs. This financial assistance is aimed at helping smaller business concerns protect their intellectual property rights as robustly as large corporations do.
In general terms, it is easier for large corporations to protect their IP. They have deeper pockets and more resources that help them to obtain and enforce protection. Small businesses do not have access to the same resources, and this can make it difficult for them to take the lead in innovation.
To help bring more balance to the IP process, the government has created the EU SME Fund, which currently has a budget of €47 million. This money will be used to reimburse small- and medium-sized businesses for the expenses that are incurred in connection with protecting their intellectual property.
As an example, the fund will reimburse businesses up to 90 percent of fees incurred for IP Scan services. These services provide assessments of a company’s unique intellectual property needs. SMEs also may be reimbursed up to 75 percent of fees charged by national intellectual property offices for trademark and design registrations as well as up to 50 percent of national-office fees that are charged in connection with patents.
The EU SME Fund was created in response to the global COVID-19 emergency and its particularly harsh impact on SMEs. It will operate between 2022 and 2024 with the hope of supporting innovation in SMEs across the EU.
China Makes Strides
If you do business in China, then you already may be aware that it’s a nation that is rife with counterfeit products. Protecting patents and trademarks in China is an uphill battle in which there always seems to be more imposters trying to capitalize on your success and the quality of your products.
The Chinese government recognizes this status, and they are making efforts to correct these and related intellectual property issues. As an example, the Chinese intellectual property office recently joined the international Hague Agreement for the registration of industrial designs. Membership signals a willingness to work within an agreed-upon set of rules and regulations that are upheld across national borders.
Additionally, China has established more than 20 offices worldwide that are tasked with handling disputes between Chinese entities and foreign companies. This demonstrates a willingness to cooperate on the world stage with regard to intellectual property rights.
Recently, Chinese officials unveiled a 115-point outline regarding how to build a powerful country from an intellectual property standpoint. Included within the outline is an intention to amend the country’s anti-monopoly law, strengthen the manner in which intellectual property rights are protected and enhance quality control with respect to the examination of patent and trademark applications.
Hopefully, with China’s new focus on protecting intellectual property rights, foreign businesses will soon see fewer fakes and imposters cropping up.
Do You Need IP Protection in Other Jurisdictions?
If your organization has any overseas operations, then it might be worthwhile to examine whether or not IP protection is needed in those countries. Ask for guidance from an intellectual property attorney at Williams IP Law by calling (832) 795-1909.