Merrill Brink News Reviews and Opinion on Apr 16, 2013: Protecting intellectual property in international business

Share Article - The golden arches of McDonald’s, Nike’s ‘Just Do It’, and Mickey Mouse are just three of the most globally renowned brands that instantly identifies their company and their reputation.

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Protecting intellectual property in international business

The golden arches of McDonald’s, Nike’s ‘Just Do It’, and Mickey Mouse are just three of the most globally renowned brands that instantly identifies their company and their reputation. Trademarks, copyrights and patents are the most common forms of intellectual property protection that help organisations market and recoup their investment to the creation of their brand. In order to protect and enforce the company’s innovations and intangible assets, you need to register these assets at your country’s intellectual property (IP) agency and highly consider other territories in which they will be marketed.1

In 2011, more than two million patent applications were filed worldwide – up by 7.2 per cent compared to 2010. The same year also saw a record number of international patent filings made with 182,354 applications through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Filings from China, Japan and the US accounted for 82 per cent of the growth in total applications.2

The inevitable international nature of IP is highlighted by China’s recent growth as a center of innovation. In 2011, China overtook the US in filings and now has the largest patent office in the world, largely due to increased resident filings. The World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) maintains a database of international patent applications, but to obtain a patent that is valid in a particular country, a request must be made in the respective country’s patent agency or with organisations such as the European Patent Office (EPO). In this type of occasion you may critically consider clear and accurate translations of the materials required. This can be paramount in securing your company’s patent.3

Protecting the IP assets of a company can be a demanding and intricate legal process that requires knowledge of international laws and clear interpretations of differing factors of the requirements to properly and effectively register an asset.

Engage a qualified language service provider (LSP) who can help you navigate the IP matters, understands the nuances of international patent laws, and meet any specific translation requirements in the relevant countries. A strong grasp of international IP issues serves as a means of risk management for a company; this allows the business to have procedures and systems in place at the event of an IP theft and infringement incident.

IP Infringement and theft can be costly

The dispute between Apple and Samsung over smartphone technology, exemplifies the importance of IP protection and enforcement. At that time, South Korea-based Samsung was hit with a $1.05 billion verdict by a US federal jury; consequently Apple’s stock price immediately rose by 2 per cent to an all-time high. Inversely, Samsung’s plunged to a four-year low that instantly dropped their market valuation to about $12 billion.4 To date, the two companies are still engaged in IP disputes in a number of other jurisdictions around the world.

Dealing with IP issues is increasingly becoming the onus of individual companies since IP agencies process and manage enormous numbers of applications and registrations. A 2009 US Government Accountability Office report indicated that the US have IP personnel in as many as 168 countries, but currently only have two Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinators (IPLEC) attorneys in Thailand and Bulgaria. IPLEC is established for IP protection and enforcement as their primary mission in their respective regions.5

The global economic crisis has put the focus on the protection of IP more than ever before, particularly as it runs concurrently with an era of unprecedented technological development and innovation. An established IP protection is an imperative consideration for all companies across the globe. Ensure all necessary materials – legal, technical, financial – are translated accurately by partnering with a proficient LSP who understands the implications along the business chain.


1 “Why are Intellectual Property Rights Important?” Global Intellectual Property Center
2 World Intellectual Property Indicators - 2012 Edition (Highlights PDF)
3 Patent Laws Around the World
4 Apple’s $1 Billion Patent Win Over Samsung Rattles Google’s Cage
5 “Overseas U.S. Government Personnel Involved in Efforts to Protect and Enforce Intellectual Property Rights.” GAO-09-402R Overseas IP Personnel . US Government Accountability Office. 2009.

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Vanessa Lontoc
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