In today’s world, protecting a trademark internationally is one of the most challenging aspects. There is no simple way to ‘globally’ register a trademark in every country, so trademark owners must register their trademark rights in every country they seek protection in.
Four reasons support the importance of international trademark registration for United States businesses abroad:
1) Your products may be more easily accessible to global consumers if you operate online.
A major advantage of e-commerce and online selling is that your products and business are more accessible to international consumers than ever before. Although you can choose where to ship your goods, accessing the global marketplace via the internet offers retailers and other distributors a prime opportunity for growth.
When your products reach international markets, however, your business name, brand, and trademark may become more valuable as your popularity rises. The registration of your trademark in other countries where your products are available can prevent other businesses from using the same or similar names and trademarks as yours. It is possible for poorly-intentioned parties to exploit your popularity by adopting your name, logo, or other brand signifiers for their own benefits and businesses. This may damage your reputation through inferior quality or service, and reduce your profit margin.
2) Counterfeiters may be based overseas.
Furthermore, there are those who may simply go so far as to replicate your product for their own gain, trademark and all. When companies fail to register their trademarks internationally, counterfeiting is a boom industry overseas.
While U.S. trademark law provides protection against counterfeit imports, registering your trademark in countries you believe the counterfeits are originating can help you take an even further step to stifle the flow of illicit goods bearing your business’s name and mark. The process helps you proactively involve the local government in the country where the illicit products are being manufactured, and therefore helps prevent counterfeit items from reaching shores other than those of the United States (or where you live).
3) You may have a supply chain that involves international commerce.
Your products may have international reach even if they are not sold worldwide – for example, in the manufacturing supply chain. Depending on what you sell, and how it’s manufactured, it’s important to know both where your suppliers operate and where their suppliers may be located. A trademark registration in countries involved in your supply chain may help prevent situations where subcontractors may use your name illicitly to benefit from their work with you. One thing is listing you as a customer (assuming no NDA has been signed) – but another is trying to appear as a division or subsidiary of your business. By registering your trademark, you’ll be able to police and prevent similar situations from occurring and companies will be less likely to try to do the same if they know that you’ve registered it.
4) Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to register your mark in other countries using the Madrid Protocol.
As a result of the Madrid Protocol, if your home country and the countries where you wish to register your trademark are the same, you can receive international protection (in accordance with local law) with fewer steps. With the Madrid protocol, trademark owners can submit one application (through WIPO), which can then be extended to various other countries that are members of theMadrid protocol. By filing trademarks in different countries, you can save a great deal of money. You must keep in mind that your trademark application must meet all local standards (not just those of your home country), and you must protect it vigorously to prevent challenges or cancellations. However, based on the convenience added by the Madrid Protocol alone, international registration is a strong case for international registration.
As with all trademark law, the Madrid Protocol – and any international registration – requires careful, accurate, and well-researched actions on your part. It’s recommended that you consult with a trademark attorney to increase your chances of registering your trademark successfully, as well as learn what types of protections you will receive in each country where you own a trademark. An attorney can also advise you on any areas of weakness or vulnerability related to international trademark protection, and can assist you in receiving all the benefits you deserve.