Intellectual Property – Do you have the correct legal procedures in place?

Trading overseas is often the next step for entrepreneurs looking to expand their markets to new audiences. You may have an idea or product which you've specifically designed to target an audience abroad, but prefer to conduct your business in a different country. Whatever your business setup, it's important to understand that your Intellectual Property is at risk of infringement in foreign markets if you don't have the correct legal protection in place.

In this article

What We’ll Cover

  • What intellectual property is and what is covered by IP

  • How to protect your work using IP laws

  • How to enforce your IP overseas

  • How to prepare your documents to be valid overseas

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property covers a range of ideas, creations, designs and visual or audible trademarks which defines your brand. There are four main categories in which your Intellectual Property could require protection under:

  • Copyright – this protects written or published works such as books, songs, films, web content and artistic works
  • Patents – this protects commercial inventions, such as a new invention, product or process
  • Designs – this protects designs, such as plans, drawings or computer models
  • Trademarks – this protects signs, symbols, logos, words or sounds that distinguish your brand or products and services

These classifications allow you to choose the right kind of legal protection you require. Although Copyright is considered an Intellectual Property along with Trademarks, Patents and Designs, they protect different assets. An example of this is as follows:

A start-up gaming company creates its brand. This includes a company name, logo, and a unique sound clip which accompanies its logo animation. As these assets are what defines the company’s brand itself, these are considered Trademarks and can be protected under this classification. Any games that the company goes on to produce and publish are protected under Copyright laws.​

How do I make sure my Intellectual Property is protected?

As Intellectual Property is territorial, and must be applied for in each state, there will effectively be a different process for each country. There are however several organisations and treaties in place which aim to make this process much easier for those wishing to trade overseas.

If you are based in Europe and wish to trade in other European countries, the EUIPO and the EPO work in co-operation with each other to make this procedure much easier. You will only be required to file one initial application to cover several countries which you can later opt for. Members of the Paris Agreement (WIPO) also extend a temporary automatic IP cover for those attending events such as conventions in their country, though this should always be confirmed before travelling to avoid any potential issues.

Outside of the EU however, things can become a little more complicated. Even though there are treaties and agreements in place which aim to standardise IP laws and processes in all member states, individual applications are still required.

Isn’t all work produced automatically Copyrighted?

It’s common understanding that any works produced in any form of media are automatically protected under international Copyright law. The Berne Agreement supports this understanding between member states that they must recognise the validity of all infringement claims in their jurisdiction according to the guidelines set out in the treaty.

If your assets are exploited however, how do your prove your ownership in a legal case? Although Copyright is implied, proving your rights over the material can become difficult if you have not filed for any official protection of your works.

I have my documents, can I present them overseas as they are?

You can apply directly to the official body for Intellectual Property matters in the country you wish to trade in. For example, if you are a UK company exporting products to China, you should consider protecting both your company Trademarks as well as the products themselves with Patents and Copyright.

You will need to present several documents which will vary by country, but are likely to include an international search report, your company documents and information relating to your product specifications.

Wherever you intend on trading, your documents would first need to go through a process called legalisation, sometimes called authentication or attestation, in order to make them legally recognised in your target country.

How do I legalise my documents ready for submission?

All documents, whatever their use, are likely to require a process of legalisation before being presented overseas if they are to be used in official or legal matters. This is a process which essentially makes them recognised as genuine by obtaining several official stamps from the relevant government bodies.

Each destination country has differing processes for legalisation, however, and this can become a confusing and stressful step in the whole registration process. If you make a mistake during the legalisation process, this can delay your registration or even cause rejection, costing your company both time and money.

The process for UK documents is started by having a solicitor make a certified copy of your documents. Once this stage is completed, you will need to obtain an Apostille from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). If you are presenting your document within Europe this could be the only legalisation stage required. It can then be prepared for submission to the government or organisation you choose to process your application.

If you’re trading outside of Europe, you may need to follow the Apostille with a consular stamp from the Embassy of the country you intent to trade in. Once these have been applied, you can then present them overseas to support your application.

Something to bear in mind is some countries may also require you to have your documents translated or that you provide dual-language versions. The documents themselves also have differing guidelines in how they must be presented. For example, any document longer than a single page being legalised for China must be bound by a Notary Public first.

Can I get help with this process?

If you’re trading overseas, we can assist in getting your documents ready for submission. We can have your documents translated if required, as well as complete the full legalisation process for practically any country you wish to expand into. Simply visit our site and request a personalised quotation based on your requirements. You can also give us a call directly on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, send us a message via WhatsApp, use our live chat system, or e-mail us at sales@vitalconsular.com. Our friendly team of specialists are on hand to answer all of your queries.

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

When you’re launching a new product or idea, it’s important to be aware of protecting your intellectual property from the beginning. Getting the necessary paperwork in place doesn’t have to be difficult, but when you start to deal with other companies or individuals overseas, things can become more complicated. Don’t assume IP laws are universal and make sure you know the regulations before you enter all new markets.

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Melanie Clarke
Melanie is a Digital Marketer and TEFL Specialist at Vital Consular. Before taking up a Marketing role, she spent 3 years building up a rich knowledge of global legalisation processes on the operations team. When she's not working, Melanie enjoys attending music events and pursuing many creative interests including screen printing and merchandise design.
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