As your business grows, it’s important to evaluate whether or not your brand extends beyond the country in which you are located as trademarks are national rights and independent from country to country and region to region. International trademark protection is important if you offer your products or services in other regions, as it helps protect and enforce your trademarks abroad.
Start by asking yourself these few simple questions to determine whether international protection of your brands is important to your business.
- 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 in, 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 where your consumers recognized your brand? Would you care if someone in that country registered a domain name that confused customers into thinking that it’s your brand? If your answers to these questions are “YES”, then you should consider protecting your brands internationally.
- 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.
- 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.
RAJ ABHYANKER, is the founding partner of LegalForce RAPC Worldwide. Raj is a winner of the American Bar Association Legal Rebel award, and the Fastcase 50 Legal Innovation Award. In addition, Raj was an economic policy adviser to the Chief Technology Officer of the United States White House for the America Invents Act, and invited speaker at the Association of California Bar Associations conference, and an invited speaker at the U.S. District Court (9th district) Judge Aiken conference on Innovations in Law, Science, & Technology. He has been quoted in the ABA Journal, New York Times, Bloomberg, Fox News, and Fast Company magazine.
This article presents the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of LegalForce RAPC or its clients. The information presented is general information and for educational purposes. No legal advice is intended to be conveyed; readers should consult with legal counsel with respect to any legal advice they require related to the subject matter of the article.