If you’ve got a product or service that you’re planning to sell abroad, or perhaps you’re planning to import the latest sought-after product from overseas, you need to be aware of the issues involving intellectual property (IP) rights.
According to leading East Anglian patent attorneys Sanderson & Co., rights such as patents, trade marks, copyright and design differ from country to country – and you might find that either you’re not protected, or you're infringing someone else’s IP rights.
As Partner James Sanderson explained: “What is lawful in the UK may not be acceptable in another country, and vice versa, so you really need expert advice to lead you through this minefield.”
Colchester-based Sanderson & Co., which is celebrating 50 years in business, offers a wide range of IP services from initial advice and research through to the establishment of rights such as patents, trade marks, design, copyright and domain names. The company can also assist with the enforcement and licensing of those rights.
Mr Sanderson added: “Because IP rights are territorial and offer no protection outside the country or countries in which they are granted, it is necessary early on to identify the countries in which protection may be worthwhile, and then to devise efficient strategies to achieve this in line with your business model.”
Various ever changing mechanisms exist to protect IP both in the UK and abroad such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty, Community trade mark and Community registered design. The Paris Convention also provides a 6 or 12 month priority period within which one may initiate applications elsewhere in the world based on a UK one.
Generally, intellectual property rights prohibit the copying, exploitation of products, processes or services in the countries in which the right is in force. For example infringing a patent occurs by making, selling, offering to sell, using or importing the product/method.
Enforcing IP rights abroad is a tricky and potentially expensive business, and subject to the vagaries of local Judges. For this reason it is essential to seek expert advice both on protection and enforcement of your rights, as well as your relationship with partners abroad.
If importing, then a product protected abroad might be free of IP rights in the UK and so present a potential new product. Furthermore, the UK rights of others must be considered when importing goods from abroad - especially cheaper goods from the Far East. Though such countries are slow to adopt more rigorous enforcement policies, courts in the UK take a harder line to imported goods that breach UK rights, so investigation of potential risks is needed.
Mr Sanderson concluded: “Whether or not you deal with products or services that are innovative, knowledge of IP and a coherent strategy are important. Protecting ones own rights and avoiding those of others are two sides of the same coin and having expert help in understanding them can be the difference between success and failure.”
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