How can Your SME Protect its Intellectual Property Abroad?
One option is to seek protection in individual countries separately by applying directly to national Industrial/Intellectual Property Offices. Each application may have to be translated into a prescribed language which is usually the national language. You will be required to pay the national application fees and, particularly in the case of patents, you may need to entrust an IP agent or attorney who will assist you in making sure the application meets national requirements. If you are still in the phase of assessing the commercial viability of an invention or are still exploring potential export markets or licensing partners, the national process would appear to be particularly expensive and cumbersome, especially where protection is being sought in a large number of countries. In such cases, the facilities offered by the WIPO-administered systems of international protection for inventions, marks and industrial designs offer a simpler and generally less expensive alternative.
Some countries have established regional agreements for obtaining IP protection for an entire region with a single application. The regional IP offices include:
- European Patent Office (for European patents): http://www.european-patent-office.org
- Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (for European Community trademarks and, in the future, industrial designs): http://oami.eu.int/
- African Regional Industrial Property Office (ARIPO, the regional IP office for English-speaking Africa for patents, trademarks and industrial designs): http://www.aripo.org/
- African Intellectual Property Office (OAPI, the regional IP office for French-speaking Africa for patents, trademarks, industrial designs and, in the future, geographical indications and layout-designs of integrated circuits): http://oapi.wipo.net/
- Eurasian Patent Office (for patent protection in countries of the Community of Independent States): http://www.eapo.org/
- Benelux Trademark Office & Benelux Designs Office (for trademark and industrial design protection in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg): http://www.bmb-bbm.org/ & http://www.bbtm-bbdm.org/
- Patent Office of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (for patents): http://www.gccpo.org/