Intellectual property helps to greatly differentiate competitors at the national and international levels, but most intellectual property only enjoys relatively localized protection. A valid patent on file with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office only enjoys protection in the United States and its territories. It does not apply internationally, which makes it vulnerable to reverse engineering and outright theft, but it is a great start.
Madrid system enables widely recognized patent protections
International business and commercial law does have provisions for protecting intellectual property at an international level. Those located in the United States need to start with a U.S. patent or trademark and then seek protection via the Madrid system. The Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization administers the Madrid system, which provides recognition of patents and trademarks filed in respective member nations, including the United States. Once you secure a U.S. patent or trademark, registering it via the Madrid system ensures widespread international protection of your intellectual property.
European Union offers limited international protections
The Madrid system only applies to nations that agree to be members and abide by the international agreement. Many nations in the European Union do not abide the Madrid system. Fortunately, the EU Intellectual Property Office enables 10-year trademark registrations, which helps to protect proprietary patents as well as trademarks at the international level. Like the Madrid system, the protection only is limited to member nations, which are those currently comprising the European Union.
Other registrations extend international protections
Ultimately, the level of patent and trademark protection needed at the international level depends on the nations in which you do business. For example, China has intellectual property laws but only for patents and trademarks filed within its administrative reach. Similarly, other nations and regions have their respective intellectual property laws and requirements for enabling international protection for those who intend to do business in those locales.
Business owners may wish to seek protection for their ideas, product designs and other assets. An attorney experienced in business and commercial law may help clients to obtain effective international trademark protection for their intellectual property.