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Going Global? Make Your IP Work for You

Thinking of going global? Wendy Crosby, Patents Director at Murgitroyd, explains how to develop a business strategy for patents, trade marks and registered designs.

Global Strategy

Launching and protecting innovation in a new territory requires a global strategy that deals with the many, varied and often specific local business and intellectual property (IP) issues which arise.  Having a good understanding of the product, the local market and the relevant product legislation, and a plan in place to manage the expansion of the business into each new territory, and to monitor competitor activity so as to be in a position to take action at the appropriate time, is crucial to the successful international launch of an innovative product.

For example, some products are specifically designed for use in a select number of countries. Some companies may only have competitors located in select countries and so they should consider carefully the geographic protection needed for each project.  This can result in a company needing to maintain a number of different IP strategies depending upon the geographic area of use, location of competitors and also the local IP framework in force in those countries.

Patents

When seeking to protect an innovative product or process, a company will typically file a patent application in the UK. This provides a 12-month window within which to file corresponding patent applications in other countries into which they may, in time, wish to expand.  It is possible to file an international patent application which effectively increases this 12-month window by a further 10 months, but it is important that companies begin strategic planning as early as possible in the product lifetime to ensure that they cover the most important markets.

Registered Designs

If the product only has a short shelf-life or embodies incremental modifications over time, particularly in relation to the appearance of the product, then the protection afforded by design rights and more specifically registered designs may be a more cost-effective alternative to patents particularly, in countries that involve a lengthy and costly patent process.

Trade Marks

Choosing the right trade mark can mean the difference between the success and failure of a global product launch strategy, particularly in countries where the trade mark needs to be translated into the local language.  For example, a trade mark may be absolutely fine in English, but when translated into Spanish, for sale in Mexico, it may be either offensive, unpronounceable or unsuitable for the product in question. 

Take Action Early

For companies building an international IP portfolio, considering these issues at an early stage of each project is crucial, as each project may require a different IP strategy and any delay in taking action could lead to limitations in the remedies available.  An intellectual property attorney will be able to discuss the issues relevant to you and devise a tailored strategy for your business.