As your business continues to grow, it is important to evaluate whether or not your brand extends beyond the country in which you are located. Often times, trademark protection in the United States alone is not enough for companies that currently or are planning do business abroad.
Trademarks are national rights independent from country to country, and region to region. In deciding whether or not you should seek international trademark protection, consider the following questions:
1. Which countries do you currently sell, license, or franchise your products and/or services?
If you have customers in different countries around the world, it is important that you have protection in each country you conduct business in, including online sales. This is especially a concern when protecting your brand from counterfeit or ‘knockoff’ goods. If someone were to sell counterfeit products or services in a country where your consumers would recognize your brand, international trademark protection is crucial. Additionally, if someone in another country were to register a domain name that could confuse your customers into thinking that it is your brand, international trademark protection is essential in preventing imitators from impacting your brand identity.
2. Which countries are you likely to sell your products and/or services in the next 3 to 5 years?
As your business grows, you might consider expanding into other countries. If you advertise your products and/or services through the web, it is possible that entrepreneurs in that country may attempt to capitalize on your delay to protect your brand name internationally. For this reason, international protection in countries where you are likely to operate in in the future may be a wise option. If your brand gains notoriety in another country, knockoffs of your brand may be produced faster than your ability to obtain international trademark rights to defend it.
3. Which countries manufacture products similar to yours? Protect yourself there.
In some cases, counterfeit goods may begin at the original production source. Certain industrialized countries such as China, Taiwan and India now have the level of manufacturing prowess that enables non-ethical companies to cost effectively create knock-offs of your goods. If that is the case, you should seek federal protections of your trademark in order to prevent others from misappropriating your goodwill and business reputation.
If someone starts selling products or services with your brand (or a confusingly similar brand) in a country in which you currently operate in or are likely to operate in in the future, protecting your brand internationally may be a good idea.