An explanation of trademark law and international intellectual property laws. This information is part of "A Basic Guide to Exporting" provided by the U.S. Commercial Service to assist U.S. companies in exporting.
Last Published: 10/20/2016
A trademark is a word, symbol, name, slogan, or combination that identifies and distinguishes the source of sponsorship of goods and may serve as an index of quality. Service marks perform the same function for businesses dealing in services rather than goods. Additionally, the U.S. provides for protection of a mark, registered or not, if that mark has become well known through domestic or international use. However, in most countries, trademark rights are acquired only through registration, and many countries require local use of the registered mark to maintain the registration. Whether a given mark can be registered in a particular country will depend on the law of that country. For example, some countries do not protect service marks.
 
Loss of intellectual property may be one of the modern company’s biggest fears.When in doubt, don’t hesitate to hire counsel specializing in international intellectual property laws.
If your business is expanding, you may face a period of time in which your mark is known and perhaps registered in the U.S., even though you are not quite ready to do business abroad. It is smart to decide early where you will need trademark protection and to protect If your business is expanding, you may face a period of time in which your mark is known and perhaps registered in the U.S., even though you are not quite ready to do business abroad. It is smart to decide early where you will need trademark protection and to protect your rights by filing in those countries. Deciding where to file is a business issue, in which you must balance the expense of registration against its benefit. At a minimum, you will want to file in countries in which you will do business. You may also find it desirable to file in countries that are known sources of counterfeit goods, although some national laws require local use to maintain a registration. Although trademark laws impose no deadlines for registering a mark, a business should register promptly to avoid having its mark registered by someone else.

You may find it beneficial to investigate the local connotation of a trademark or trade name before making a major investment in another country. A different language or culture may have unfavorable, humorous, or even rude meanings or words or symbols with neutral or favorable meanings in the United States. Even packaging colors may connote different meanings in different countries. For example, white often implies purity in the United States, but it is the color of mourning in most of the Far East.
 
Even if you’re not ready to export, take steps to protect your trademarks in other countries. Impostors can appear and prevent you from doing business later on.
Even if you’re not ready to export, take steps to protect your trademarks in other countries. Impostors can appear and prevent you from doing business later on. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to hire counsel specializing in intellectual property law.
 




Trademarks