The U.S. has long been the world’s biggest exporter of pop culture. Both the present and past of U.S. TV programming is available on screens around the planet. For instance, SpongeBob SquarePants is apparently popular in Mexico, South Korea and Brazil, among other far-flung places.
The U.S. helps to feed the world, too. You can get a McDonald’s hamburger in Hamburg, Germany, a Domino’s pizza in Italy, and Burger King’s french fries in France.
Protecting IP rights abroad
While deep-pocketed American companies have taken their brands and products around the planet, it can be difficult for small U.S. companies to expand beyond the nation’s borders while protecting their intellectual property rights abroad.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says it’s important for inventors to know that “rights granted by a U.S. patent extend only throughout the territory of the United States and have no effect in a foreign country.” Inventors who want patent protection in other countries must apply for a patent in each of those nations.
Of course, those countries have their own patent law and requirements, as they do for trademarks, copyrights and other forms of intellectual property.
Patent Cooperation Treaty
It’s important to point out that the Patent Cooperation Treaty enables someone filing a patent application with the USPTO to concurrently seek patent protection in up to 143 countries.
The USPTO says that inventors and businesses that want to obtain and protect IP rights in foreign markets should “(work) with legal counsel to develop an overall IPR (intellectual property rights) protection strategy” and to “(develop) detailed IPR language for licensing and subcontracting contracts.”
Would-be exporters should also conduct “due diligence with potential foreign partners.”
Taking care of business
Before exploring overseas markets, it’s also a good idea to take care of IP matters at home by recording U.S.-registered copyrights and trademarks with Customs and Border Protection.
The World Intellectual Property Organization has contact information for most IP offices worldwide.