Exporting your intellectual property

Protecting your trade marks, patents, designs and copyright abroad.

Thinking of trading abroad?

Intellectual property rights are territorial. You should consider getting IP protection if you want to trade overseas or sell to foreign customers via the internet. Start by developing an international strategy, identifying your markets, business goals and resources. Your overseas target markets could be members of IP treaties and conventions. These can make it easier to protect your IP abroad.

Protecting and managing IP abroad can be very complex. We strongly recommend you seek help from an IP attorney or other professional IP advisor.

You should take some time to consider the realities of exporting and the implications for all aspects of your business. Be aware of any help you might need. Department for International Trade (DIT) can work with you to help you succeed in international markets.

IP issues for exporters

Depending on your budget and countries of interest, you will need to decide whether:

  • to file separate IP applications in individual countries
  • or make use of an international agreement which allows you to file in several countries through one application

Knowing whether your IP can be used and protected in another country is an important part of your strategy. You don’t want to spend money developing and protecting IP if it turns out that it is already registered in one of your major foreign markets. Similarly you don’t want to export to a country where you may infringe someone’s IP.

Translation costs can be very expensive. You will have to translate all your documents and correspondence into the official language used by that office. Your IP attorney will be able to brief a foreign attorney on your behalf.

The fees for obtaining and maintaining IP rights vary from country to country. There are some differences between countries in the legal requirements for obtaining IP rights. Your patent, trade mark or design may not qualify for protection in all your markets of interest.

General guidance for protecting abroad

Detailed guidance on all your options for protecting your IP abroad is available from the IPO. The guides contain information on all aspects of international protection on:

The intellectual Property Office can’t give legal advice. You will need to contact your IP attorney for specific legal advice.

Specific country guidance

Our country guides provide tailored IP information for key markets throughout the world. They describe the issues you may face with IP infringement, offer advice on how you can effectively tackle these, and provide links to sources of further help.

Country guides currently available are:

Expert help in South East Asia, China, Brazil and India

For more complex issues, where you or your attorney need individual advice, you can contact one of our four IP attachés. The attachés recommend contacting them in the very early stages of trading overseas, when good advice is most important.

The attachés give advice on the legal and enforcement options you might have, and where you can get additional support or need to seek legal advice.

The IPO’s IP attaché network offers UK business free, impartial expert advice in the key markets of:

  • South East Asia, represented by Desmond Tan in Singapore
  • China, represented by Cerian Foulkes in Beijing
  • Brazil, represented by Angelica Garcia in Sao Paolo
  • India, represented by - currently post is vacant
Published 4 March 2015
Last updated 23 July 2019 + show all updates
  1. Attache for India: post is currently vacant.

  2. Shilpi Mehta Nanda is now the attache for New Delhi.

  3. Links to country guides for South Africa and Turkey added.

  4. First published.