Guide

Protecting your intellectual property abroad

Introduction

Intellectual property (IP) rights are territorial. This means that UK-registered rights, such as patents, trade marks and designs, do not automatically afford you protection in other countries.

If you protect your ideas and inventions in the UK alone, people in other territories may be able to use your IP without infringing your rights.

You can get IP protection overseas in three ways. You can use:

  • national applications - to file for protection in each country separately
  • regional applications - to file once for protection in an entire region (eg Europe)
  • international systems - to apply once for protection in many different countries

If you plan to trade overseas, it is important that you understand exactly how IP protection works in your specific market.

This guide explains intellectual property rights in different countries and describes the different mechanisms you can use to achieve international protection. It also highlights common IP problems when exporting and the role of customs enforcement of IP rights.