Licences and enforcement for international trading

Intellectual property rights and international trade

It is important that you protect your intellectual property (IP) and take action if you suspect someone is infringing your rights.

IP legislation exists to protect your intellectual property, whether it is a patent, design, trade mark or copyright. It prevents anyone from profiting from your IP, whether in the UK or abroad. The legislation also aims to protect the public from fake products which endanger their health and safety, or from being misled.

In order for action to be taken to protect your IP rights, you must first of all make sure that you have registered them. Read more about protecting intellectual property.

The Intellectual Property Office has produced a supply chain toolkit containing advice on how to protect your intellectual property rights. It also contains guidance on the steps you should take if you discover counterfeit goods in your supply chain. Read more about the supply chain toolkit.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) can help you if you suspect your business identity and products are being abused.

Goods considered as infringing IP in international trade include:

  • counterfeit goods - incorporating any symbol, goods or packaging carrying or portraying a trade mark without authorisation
  • pirated goods - copies made without the consent of the copyright holder
  • patent-infringing goods - cover infringements of a patent under UK law
  • national or community plant variety right - covers infringements of plant varieties under UK and EU law
  • designations of origin or geographical indications infringing goods

If you suspect that goods arriving in the UK are infringing your IP rights, you can submit a National Intellectual Property Rights Application and HMRC will take action. If the IP right in question needs protecting in two or more EU member states, use Community Intellectual Property Rights Application.

In both cases, you must prove you hold the rights to use the IP you are asking HMRC to protect. Find downloadable versions of the National and Community Intellectual Property Rights Application forms.

If HMRC rejects your application, you are entitled to an explanation and a request for further investigation.

You can also read about protecting your intellectual property protection overseas.