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Dear Professor Bruce:
I am a small business owner and just received a U.S. patent on an invention and have registered my trademark. If I do business overseas, is my U.S. patent and trademark registration enough?
In short, no. A U.S. patent only gives you the right to keep others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States. Likewise, a U.S. trademark registration is valid only in the United States and restricts the use of marks, which are confusingly similar to the registered mark.
Today, piracy, counterfeiting and the theft of intellectual property pose a serious threat to all U.S. businesses. Small businesses can be at a particular disadvantage because they lack the resources and expertise available to larger corporations and may not be familiar with the process of protecting intellectual property. Research conducted in the spring of 2005 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) indicates that only 15 percent of small businesses that do business overseas know that a U.S. patent or trademark provides protection only in the United States.
According to Brigid Quinn, Deputy Director of Public Affairs (USPTO), “Making patent, trademark and copyright protection a core part of your business plan - whether you're a major multinational firm or a one-person home business--is a smart business strategy”.
Since the rights granted by a U.S. patent extend only throughout the territory of the United States and have no effect in a foreign country, an inventor who wishes patent protection in other countries must apply for a patent in each of the other countries or in regional patent offices. Almost every country has its own patent law, and a person desiring a patent in a particular country must make an application for patent in that country, in accordance with the requirements of that country.
If you are a qualified owner of a trademark application pending before the USPTO, or of a registration issued by the USPTO, you may seek registration in any of the countries that have joined the Madrid Protocol by filing a single application, called an "international application," with the he International Bureau of the World Property Intellectual Organization, through the USPTO. Also, certain countries recognize a United States registration as a basis for filing an application to register a mark in those countries under international treaties. The laws of each country regarding registration must be consulted.
The USPTO created a Web site to help small businesses consider the benefits of strong intellectual property protection - both in the United States and overseas - and decide whether it is right for them.
For further information, visit: http://www.uspto.gov/smallbusiness/.
“Making patent, trademark and copyright protection a core part of your business plan, whether you're a major multinational firm or a one-person home business, is a smart business strategy”.