Doing business abroad: Protecting your IP
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Intellectual property (IP), including patents, trademarks, copyright and industrial designs, is a valuable asset that can support your business expansion abroad.
Many countries extend copyright protection automatically to original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works created in Canada. However, a Canadian patent, or a Canadian trademark or industrial design registration, does not provide protection abroad.
You should consider obtaining IP protection in the countries where you plan on doing business, including selling products over the Internet and/or manufacturing products overseas.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Will I be operating my business in other countries besides Canada? If so, which ones?
- Do I think I will ever export or manufacture my product outside of Canada?
- Do I have the financial resources to obtain IP protection in other countries?
Have you thought of the costs and risks associated with protecting or not protecting your IP?
Start with an IP strategy. Identify business goals, protectable IP, regional requirements, potential partners and capacity to expand into your target markets.
You should consider acquiring IP rights in each country where protection is justified. Conduct some research and take advantage of online IP databases available on the websites of foreign IP offices to help you identify:
- if your IP conflicts with or infringes on someone's prior rights,
- potential partners, and/or
- any competitors.
To seek IP protection outside of Canada, you may:
- Apply directly with a national or regional IP office.
- Take advantage of international systems which provide applicants with useful tools to apply for IP protection in many countries through one application.
You may wish to get advice from a qualified IP professional who can assist in determining the best options for your business and ensure that IP protection is properly secured abroad.
It's important to ensure that your legal agreements with distributors, licensees and/or manufacturers protect your IP rights and cover relevant countries.
IP rights themselves do not stop others from using, copying, selling and/ or manufacturing products and/or services that encompass your IP—this is why you may need to enforce your rights. Enforcement can help maintain the value of your IP and keep your competitive edge.
Many countries have mechanisms where IP owners can contact customs officials to have products which infringe their IP rights seized at the border.
For additional information
- For IP tools, resources and information for business, visit Canada.ca/ip-for-business.
- For more information on going global with your IP, visit Canada.ca/export-ip.
- Find more programs and support for Canadian businesses and innovators at Canada.ca/business.
- Contact our Client Service Centre at 1-866-997-1936
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