Intellectual property protection overseas

Do I need protection overseas?

Intellectual property (IP) rights are territorial and your UK protection will not extend to other countries. Where registration is necessary for you to assert your IP rights, you will generally need to apply for it in each country in which you want protection.

If you export - or plan to export - your goods or services you should seriously consider extending your UK registered trade mark, patent or design protection to the countries in which you are selling.

You might want to consider this even if selling overseas is only a small part of your business. For example, if you have the occasional overseas customer who purchases from your website.

Remember - when protecting your IP you need to think about the future. If someone sees you are marketing a good idea in one country, they could copy you and start marketing it elsewhere.

Unless you have the appropriate protection you'll have no way of stopping them - and any plans you might have had to expand to that country will be undermined. It might also reflect badly on your business at home.

Licensing

If you have a licence to use somebody else's IP, such as a patent or copyright, it should be clear to which countries your licence applies. Sometimes it might give you UK rights only and further rights will need to be negotiated. You can find out about licensing on the Intellectual Property Office website.

Getting help

International IP protection is complex and you should seek specialist advice.

A patent attorney, trade mark attorney or specialist solicitor will have the legal skills to deal with your IP issues. You can:

nibusinessinfo.co.uk offers country-specific guidance on IP issues you might face when selling overseas. You can find advice in our guides on:

You can also find advice on applying for patent protection in the European Union (EU) on the European Patent Office (EPO) website.

Developed with:

Intellectual Property Office