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How to Protect and Enforce Your Intellectual Property Rights in Foreign Markets – Part 2

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How to Protect and Enforce Your Intellectual Property Rights in Foreign Markets – Part 2

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: October 5, 2011 Updated: March 2, 2014

This article is part two in a two-part series in which Susan Wilson, director of the Office of Intellectual Property Rights of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration shares tips and tools for protecting and enforcing your intellectual property rights in foreign markets (read Part 1 here).

You’ve worked hard to develop your products and services and to grow your small business, and you feel the time may be right to enter the international marketplace. But now you realize there is another step before you jump into exporting: how will you protect your intellectual property rights in these foreign markets, and who can help you?

How the Department of Commerce Can Help

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable when it comes to piracy and counterfeiting, but there are numerous tools and resources developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce that can help small businesses protect and enforce their intellectual property rights in the U.S. and abroad. 

As Susan Wilson explains, “We like to focus on a couple of stages. First, of course, you have to understand intellectual property rights are private rights. They are privately owned… so it is really up to the owner of the… rights to make sure their rights are registered and that they are making smart business decision … and are picking smart, trustworthy distributors, and manufacturers.

So, when it comes to protecting your intellectual property, the first line of defense is you. There are, however, many government-sponsored tools and resources that can help small business owners learn how to protect your intellectual property at home and in foreign markets:

1. Educate Yourself about Intellectual Property with Online Training – This online training program – Understanding Intellectual Property Rights – helps small business owners understand what intellectual property is, what it can do for you, and how to go about obtaining protection for your trademarks, patents, and copyrights. The training, hosted at Stopfakes.gov, is completely free of charge and is available in English, Spanish, and French.

2. Get Specific Information for Small Businesses – Visit www.stopfakes.gov/smallbusiness operated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for information on what type of intellectual property protection to apply for, as well as when, where, and how to apply.

3. Educate Yourself about intellectual property in Your Target Market with “Country Toolkits” –Once you understand intellectual property, you next need to consider which markets your want to go into and what challenges you might face in those markets. How do you secure your rights in those markets? To answer these questions, the Department of Commerce has developed “Country Toolkits.” Once again, these are hosted on Stopfakes.gov (see the left hand navigation bar) and provide links to U.S. government resources hosted on various embassy websites and explain the process is for obtaining protection in that market.

4. How to File a Complaint – If you wish to file a complaint about intellectual property protection abroad, visit http://www.stopfakes.gov/contactus.asp. If your small business is presented with an issue overseas and is struggling in a particular market due to trademark or copyright infringement, the Office of Intellectual Property Rights will assemble a team of trade specialists and intellectual property experts to investigate and help.

For more information about whether your intellectual property rights apply globally and what to consider when expanding into global trade, read part one in this blog series: How to Protect and Enforce Your Intellectual Property Rights in Foreign Markets – Part 1.

Useful Links

About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


My husband is an amateur photographer and we are finding people stealing his work and republishing it. I think we need to find a copyright lawyer.
I see the common theme is to educate yourself, and I agree this is important. Also talking to other people who have experience in protecting intellectual property rights in foreign markets, is also important. Car Rental Costa Rica
IP rights are a sticky subject particularly in china and other asian countries....there is little concern and common sense will often prevail if we pay attention. as a Seattle Architect and small business owner, i have had to figure out this kind of thing by myself. ;)
These are some great tips. Thanks for sharing! Tammy Negotiating Credit Card Debt
You gotta after these thieves hardcore and send a message! MLSP
These are some great tips. Thanks for posting this. Looking forward to part 3. Sherry Beverly Hills Dentist
So disgusting how anyone can just steal your stuff on the internet. How do these people sleep at night? Jenny and Ted
It's a dog-eat-dog world in this digital age. You have to do what it takes to protect yourself. Lance Reverse Cell Phone Lookup
Wow, this is really hard if you are acting in the worldwide market. It is really hard there because there are other laws. See, what to do. Sven Muller, Trier
Great read. Can anyone direct me to part one of this two-part series? Stacy Adams Self Storage Lubbock Texas


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