Managing your business in Europe

Sharing and protecting new ideas

Ideas are crucial to any business, and even more so when you operate internationally. Keep an open mind - you may be able to learn new methods of doing business from your contacts in different countries, or gain an advantage over your competitors by introducing good business practices.

Protecting intellectual property (IP) - designs, patents, copyright, etc - is important because it is a key condition for innovation, stimulating research and development investment and knowledge transfer from laboratory to marketplace.

If you have confidential business information or IP, you should make sure that this is handled carefully. Employees in different countries may have different concepts of what can - or cannot - be shared.

Also make sure you check that any IP is registered in every country that you plan to operate in. Although protection for most IP rights - such as copyrights - exists automatically at European Union (EU) level, there are some types of protection you have to apply for in each individual country, notably patents.

You can apply to the European Patent Organisation (EPO), specifying the countries you want your patent protection to cover.

IP rights and competition law can sometimes appear to conflict. For more information, see our guide on competition law in Europe.

Data protection

Data protection is an important consideration for any business that moves information between different European countries. This might be customer data, partnership agreements or employee records. There is Europe-wide legislation protecting individuals' rights. However, some member states may implement the rules differently.

If you are conducting business across borders then any data you have must comply with legislation in the state where you collect or store it.