Should I protect my trademark internationally?
For lots of businesses it will make sense to register trademarks at a national level to ensure that domestic competitors do not impinge upon their brand identity or mislead customers through overly similar logos and slogans.
However, in most cases you will also need to take steps to protect your trademark in other parts of the world, as this is not automatically granted even if you are registered in your home country.
The question, then, is when it makes sense to go further with your brand preservation efforts. Here are a few scenarios in which seeking international trademark protection is worthwhile.
Global reach makes protection more appealing
The rise of ecommerce has meant that it is much easier for brands to get their products to people on the other side of the planet.
Of course if your goods are cropping up in different regions, then your brand is being exposed to more people, and if it is not trademarked elsewhere then it could easily be copied and used by third parties to piggyback on the good reputation that you are building.
Then, if these third parties create sub-par products which are mistaken for your own, the good will that you have generated with international shoppers could evaporate.
Multi-country coverage is easy to secure
The good news for businesses that want to protect their trademarks in other nations is that this is easier than you might think, thanks to the Madrid System.
Rather than needing to apply separately in every jurisdiction, you can combine this into a single application and register with the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization. 90 sovereign states form the Madrid System, and with the help of the likes of the Nominus trademark service, applications can be overseen by experts to ensure success.
Your supply chain matters
Another interesting quirk of global commerce and industry in the 21st century is that even if a business does not sell its products overseas directly, they may end up being used and recognized elsewhere because of the ever-complex nature of international supply chains.
It is not just about which businesses you supply your goods to, but also in turn which organizations they have dealings with, so your company name and logo could end up in some surprising places.
Mapping out the supply chain and determining if there are any countries in which trademark coverage makes sense is a necessity in this scenario.
Counterfeiting is increasingly common
While some businesses in other regions might cheekily borrow the look and feel of your own branding to try and dupe customers, others will outright rip off your logo, name and entire product portfolio for their own nefarious purposes.
The market for counterfeit goods has exploded thanks again to ecommerce, and in many cases customers in your own country, as well as those overseas, may not realize that they are buying fake products rather than the genuine article.
Businesses can be better equipped to battle counterfeiters if they have registered trademarks in regions where they fear that this practice will be most prevalent.
Again, it really comes down to just how globally available and internationally known your brand is likely to be. Small start-ups might not need international trademark registration right now, but they also need to be aware that this may eventually become a necessity as they grow.
In some cases it may be sensible to register trademarks internationally in anticipation of your global reach extending in the future. This is a good sign that you are confident in the capabilities of your brand to connect with large audiences, so do not discount it as an option outright, regardless of your circumstances.