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UKIPO – new IP guides for doing business abroad

by Andrew Watson on 8 September 2008

Via IMPACT, the UK Intellectual Property Office and UK Trade & Investment are doing a series of guides for UK businesses going abroad. This is in addition to the materials the UK IPO already makes available on its site: Intellectual property abroad. The guides don’t appear to be available yet, but will post an update.

How and when to expand is of course a large part a business’s commercial strategy, but it is important to put IP protection in place – sometimes a long time ahead of any commercial launch – in order to best protect any expansion. This is mostly because of the structure of the international IP system, which is based on principles of national treatment and minimum standards. This means that most international agreements on IP (such as the Berne Convention) set a floor for the level of protection every treaty member must give people and businesses in their country (though not a ceiling). How this protection gets implemented, and often increased, varies greatly between jurisdictions. This means that when expanding abroad, the IP protection that a company has in place for the UK won’t necessarily protect them in a new market because protection is on a country-by-country basis.

There has been some growth in regional IP systems, most notably of course the European Community where one can, for example, apply for a Community Trade Mark covering all of the EC. This and other regional and international agreements can help simplify some of the process of protecting your IP abroad for commercial expansion.

The UK IPO site is pretty useful in getting down some of the basics of IP if you are just starting out learning about the topic, as is Business Link, and some of the materials on the WIPO site.