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Avoiding Intellectual Property Theft Abroad
Guest blog by Director of the Texas Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Hope Shimabuku
Overseas markets present some of the best economic opportunities for U.S. companies, and at the same time can pose some of the greatest risks – such as counterfeiting. According to a recently released White House Fact Sheet on protecting American intellectual property (IP), the annual cost to the U.S. economy from intellectual property (IP) theft, including counterfeiting, could be as high as $600 billion.
Many U.S. businesses, particularly small and medium-sized ones, are not aware that their U.S. patent or U.S. trademark is not enforceable in other countries. In fact, to their unpleasant surprise, some U.S. companies who have never done business abroad find themselves in an untenable position when foreign manufacturers copy their products, packaging, and business plans without their knowledge or authorization. Additionally, foreign counterfeiters steal product pictures, brochures, and logos from U.S. company websites and register such materials as their own. As a result, American companies not only face counterfeit issues abroad, but consequently are then vulnerable to counterfeit products entering the U.S. For these reasons, it’s vital that U.S. companies seek trademark and patent protection well in advance of doing business internationally and adapt strategies to prevent counterfeits.
To combat this problem, the USPTO works closely with other federal agencies to protect and enforce American IP rights abroad, and provides an array of tools and resources to assist U.S. businesses doing business overseas. Our IP attachés are one of our most valuable resources. Located at U.S. embassies, consulates, and missions across the world, IP attachés assist U.S. businesses in navigating foreign laws and regulations and advocate for U.S. positions with foreign governments. They also work hand in hand with the U.S. Commercial Service's commercial specialists, who are experts in trade and export regulations. In addition, the USPTO partners with the National Intellectual Property Rights Center, which includes 19 federal agencies, as well as international agencies such as Interpol, to provide a comprehensive response to IP theft. Finally, we staff a hotline through STOPFakes.gov, where the public can provide information on suspected counterfeit goods and get information on protecting their IP. To learn more about the risks of IP theft and counterfeits, watch the Science of Innovation video on anti-counterfeiting, made with NBC Learn.
Anti Counterfeiting & The Global Marketplace
On August 29, the Texas Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in coordination with the Dallas Bar Association and the U.S. Commercial Service, will host a daylong seminar, Anti-Counterfeiting and the Global Marketplace: How to Protect and Enforce IP While Expanding Trade, in Dallas. Speakers will include the Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson and the Honorable Pete Sessions of the U.S. House of Representatives, USPTO Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Boney Denison, as well as representatives from Customs and Border Protection and the private sector. Please join us for this exciting event.
The USPTO is committed to ensuring that IP continues to drive American innovation, and that American companies can compete and succeed domestically and in the international marketplace. Working with the U.S. Commercial Service and other partner agencies, we are dedicated to helping U.S. businesses secure and enforce their IP rights both domestically and abroad for the benefit of the U.S. economy.