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Intellectual Property (IP) protection rights are registered separately in each country. This means your registered Australian trade mark, design or patent, does not protect you in other countries.

If you operate all or parts of your business overseas, you should consider registering IP rights with the country you are doing business with. Doing this will:

  • ensure you don't infringe on existing IP rights
  • exclude other businesses from making, using, selling or importing your product or service
  • help you gain entry into a market overseas

The following steps can help you identify the different types of IP you have and how you can protect your IP in each country.

1. Learn the basic IP rules for overseas


Every country has different IP laws so it's important for you to understand the rules and costs involved before approaching a global market.

You can find out how Australia's trading partners handle their IP protection overseas on the IP Australia website.

2. Take a stock take of your IP assets


Your IP is one of the key assets to your business. An audit of your business name, brand and products and services will identify what IP you should protect in the future.

Conducting an asset register will clarify who owns the IP, its value and how important it is to the success of your business.

When you identify, monitor and value your assets make sure you think about:

  • the products or services that are key to your business
  • your legal rights in relation to your products or services
  • the market advantages your rights give you

3. Determine what kind of IP you have


The type of overseas IP protection you need for your business depends on your products or services.

You'll need to identify the type of IP rights you need to register, for example, a patent, trade mark or design.

4. Check if your IP is available


If you want to operate your business overseas, you'll need to research the IP records of the country you want to do business with. This will determine whether any existing IP rights exists.

If there's already a trade mark of the same type, name and class in a country, then you may have problems entering that market.

You can check if your trade mark already exists in that country, using the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Trade mark search.

5. Understand the risks


Infringing another IP

While it's important to protect your IP, it is equally important that you don't infringe the IP ownership of others. Using someone's trade mark, patent, copyright or design without their permission is known as IP infringement and could become costly.

Someone infringing on your IP

Your IP rights may be infringed when your work, protected by IP laws, is used, copied or mistreated without having your proper permission.

To take legal action, you will need to prove that:

  • the infringer has copied whole or part of your work
  • your IP rights exist
  • the infringer did not have permission or consent to copy your work

If you are unsure on what elements the infringer has copied, seek the advice of a legal IP professional within the associated country.

6. Registering your IP overseas


If you are seeking IP protection in other countries you either need to: