As your business grows, it’s important to evaluate whether or not your brand extends beyond the country in which you are located. Often times, protection of your trademark in just the United States is not enough for companies that do business abroad. Trademarks are national rights and independent from country to country, and region to region.
Start by asking yourself a few simple questions to determine whether international protection of your brands is important to your business. Here are 3 questions that should be on the top of your list to help you determine which countries you should seek IP protection in.
1.) In which countries do you currently sell, license, or franchise your products and services?
Do you have customers in different countries around the world? If so, it’s important that you have protection in each country you conduct business, including online sales. This is especially true if there is concern about protecting yourself from counterfeit and knockoff goods.
Ask yourself – would you be upset if someone sold counterfeit products or services in a country that your consumers recognize your brand? Would you care if someone in that country registers a domain name that confuses customers into thinking that it’s your brand? If the answer to these questions is YES, then you should consider protecting your brands internationally.
2.) In which countries are you likely to sell your products and services in the coming 3 to 5 years?
As your business grows, are you likely to expand into other countries? Would having sole ownership of your brand name in those countries be advantageous to the growth of your company? If you’re advertising your products through the web, it’s possible that entrepreneurs in those countries may catch wind and try to capitalize on your delay to protect your brand name. For this reason alone, international protection in countries in which you are likely to operate is also a good idea.
3.) Determine which countries manufacture products similar to yours and protect yourself there.
Sometimes, counterfeit goods start at the source. Certain industrialized countries such as China, Taiwan, and India now have manufacturing prowess that enable non-ethical companies to cost effectively create knock-offs of your goods and services. If that is the case, you should seek federal protections of your trademark from others misappropriating your goodwill and business reputation.
Lastly, ask yourself – would you care if someone started selling products and services with your brand (or a confusingly similar brand) in a country in which you currently operate or are likely to operate? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should consider protecting your brands internationally.
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