Despite the efforts of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (trademarks and patents), and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (copyrights), there is no uniform protection available to an individual whose invention, mark, literary works, or computer software might be used in foreign countries.

Property protection in a foreign country frequently is dependent upon the owner meeting the registration requirements of the individual country. Individual applications for patent protection, for example, must be filed in each country in which the patent owner desires protection, unless the country conforms to an international agreement. Usually a foreign patent agent or attorney is needed to execute the filing of the application in another country. The Patent Trade Office (PTO) will provide a list of individuals who are qualified to practice before the U.S. PTO and knowledgeable about foreign registration requirements.

More recent treaties, such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty, allow applicants from member countries to file one standardized international application to use in member countries in which intellectual property protection is desired.

In spite of these advances made in international cooperation, a number of countries are frequently cited as locations where property rights protection is often inadequate:

  • Copyrights are inadequately protection in Brazil, China, India, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia.
  • Patents are unprotected or inadequately protected in Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, India, Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and China.
  • Trademarks are inadequately protected in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand.
  • Product piracy and counterfeiting are a recurring problem in Taiwan, particularly with audiovisual materials.

A good source of information about protecting a business against foreign infringement of property rights is the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (US&FCS), which maintains 47 district offices and 20 branches in 67 cities around the United States. These offices are staffed by trade specialists and maintain business libraries of the latest reports o the Department of Commerce. For assistance, call the nearest Department of Commerce district office or call (800) 872-8723. The United States Patent Trademark Office will also provide additional information.

More information can be culled from Copyrights, Patents and Trademarks by Hoyt L. Barber from Liberty Press, McGraw-Hill. (800) 262-4729. Also, Exportise: An International Trade Source Book for Smaller Company Executives by The Smaller Business Foundation of America. (202) 262-4729.