Doing business abroad: Protecting your IP in the European Union

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Doing business abroad: Protecting your IP in European Union

Intellectual property (IP) is a valuable asset that can support your business expansion abroad. A Canadian patent, trademark or industrial design does not secure your rights outside of Canada. 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.

Canada and the European Union (EU) are among the world’s largest trading partners. More than CAD$85 billion in goods and services are exchanged between them annually. It is important to know how to recognize, register and enforce your IP rights in the EU.

In the EU, you can apply for EU-wide patent, design, plant variety and trademark protection. You can also apply for IP protection on a national basis in each individual country of interest.

Where is IP registered?

The European Union Intellectual Property Office(EUIPO) is the agency responsible for registering EU-wide trademarks and designs. The granting of EU patents is administered by the European Patent Office (EPO).

Applications for trademarks and designs can be filed electronically, and patent applications can be filed on the EPO’s website.

If you do not wish to apply for IP protection across the EU, national applications for relevant IP may be filed at each EU country’s national IP office.

Both the EU and national IP office websites have online searchable databases. A good first step is to search existing IP to check whether your anticipated IP use may conflict with or infringe on someone’s prior rights.

It is important to determine your IP strategy and consider whether to file applications for EU-wide coverage or file only in the national markets of interest.

Trademarks

Patents

Designs

IP enforcement

The European Union's Directive on the enforcement of IP rights requires all EU countries to apply appropriate remedies and penalties against parties engaged in counterfeiting and piracy.

Under the Directive, all EU countries have similar measures available for IP rights holders to defend their IP rights. IP rights can be defended by asking customs to seize goods suspected of infringing any IP. In order to do so, an “application for action” must be filed with the relevant customs department (PDF 337 KB; 6 pages). Depending on your particular rights, the application for action can be national or EU-wide.

Legal proceedings can also be started to enforce your IP rights. Mediation and arbitration, which are generally more informal, less adversarial, cheaper and settlement-focused, can be used as alternatives to going to court.

Tips: Important notes

For additional help:

* The information provided above is meant as an educational resource only and should not be construed as legal advice.

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