A spark of an idea is often the start for building a business. Next steps that come to mind to most people are preparing a business plan, sales and distribution model, marketing strategy, plan for building customer base, etc. However one area that is not always as straightforward is protection of the business idea, business name, or an invention from competitors. Or actually protection of everything that is encompassed by one powerful term – Intellectual Property (IP).
We all know the term but what exactly does it incorporates? According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, “IP refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.” Globally IP is divided into 2 main groups – Industrial Property (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications) and Copyright that covers literary and artistic works such as novels, films, music, architectural designs and web pages.
USA accounts for the largest share of filed patents and trademarks applications worldwide with 28,7% and 13,8% respectively as reported by the World Intellectual Property Organization.
However due to complexity of IP processes small businesses account for only small proportion of the numbers. They are usually not properly protected and thus are more vulnerable to piracy, counterfeiting, and the theft of their intellectual property. Small business owners often simply don’t have access to the IP protection know-how that larger corporations do.
And according to statistics of Small Business Administration this is even truer for small businesses, which are exporting their products overseas. Only 15 percent of exporters realize that a U.S. patent only provides protection in the U.S.
Below are the basics to be followed for protecting IP overseas:
- Overseas Patents – Almost every country has its own patent law with specific patent application process, which needs to be followed. More information about filing for an overseas patent can be found here .
- International Trademarks – in certain countries (defined by the Madrid Protocol) trademark registration can be filed via a single application, if you are already a qualified owner of a trademark application pending before the U.S. Patent Office. If you want to protect your trademark overseas you’ll need to file for international trademark protection. More information is available here
And why is it so important to protect ones business intangibles?
Intellectual Property protection is a critical part of small business success and its current or future growth. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s stopfakes.gov web site, companies that protect their intellectual property drive more economic growth in the U.S. than any other single sector. In general, IP rights reward creativity, that fuels progress, innovation, spurs economical growth and creates jobs in return.
There are many different resources, to help you gather information on where and how to protect your intellectual property, sba.gov or export.gov are a good start.
We have also a unique opportunity for you to learn more about it during our free webinar on September 21st, which will be led by expert in the IP field, Partner at Holland & Knight law firm, Thomas W. Brooke. Registration is free and open.