How can Intellectual Property Enhance the Export Opportunities of Your SME?

Before embarking on an export operation, enterprises go through a series of crucial steps which range from identifying an appropriate export market and estimating demand, to finding channels of distribution, estimating costs and obtaining funds. Here we seek to outline the main reasons why you should also take intellectual property (IP) issues into account while planning your export strategy, and look into ways in which IP rights could enhance the competitiveness of your small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) in export markets.

As IP rights are ‘territorial’, i.e., are only available to you in the country or region in which they had been applied for and granted, to enjoy exclusive IP rights in foreign markets, you would have to seek and obtain protection abroad (except when it is available automatically without the need to comply with formalities, e.g., through an international treaty mechanism such as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, see “How can Your SME Benefit From Copyright Protection?”). The main reasons for protecting IP in export markets are outlined below:

  • IP rights, especially patents, may open up new export opportunities.
  • IP rights, especially trademarks and industrial designs, may help you to develop an advantageous market position in export markets.
  • IP rights enhance the opportunity of winning loyal clientele for your products and services in export markets.

See "Intellectual Property and Exports:  Avoiding Common Pitfalls" [PDF] and  "How can your SME Protect its Intellectual Property Abroad?"