What are the challenges of cross-border international patents?

By Stirling Austin

Protecting intellectual property (IP) from being used by your competitors using the patent system is today very well known. When a company develops something new – whether it’s a new product or simply new branding – it’s important to patent it in order to protect your IP from plagiarism.

A regular patent will only protect your IP in the country where your patent is registered. In order to protect your IP across borders, you will have to file for an international patent. International patents are becoming more common, as globalisation opens the world up and new international websites and copyrights are established every day.

International patents can protect your IP for years, clearing the way for your brand to expand overseas and strike international partnerships with companies around the globe.

What challenges does an international patent attorney face?

One of the biggest complicating factors of practicing international patent law is the vastly differing rules that vary between regions and jurisdictions. International patent attorneys frequently seek counsel from local lawyers in order to gain a better understanding of country-specific patent laws in relation to the validity, enforceability, and first ownership rights designated by a patent.

There are also cultural nuances to be considered when filing for international patents. Around the world, the expectations of clients relating to IP and patents are very different, and communication barriers that are imposed by language can also make it harder to resolve issues with international patents. Seeking advice from local counsel is, again, a potential way to mitigate some of the obstacles that are caused by differences in culture.

Digital barriers to trade are also hampering the progress of IP laws, preventing trade from being truly international. Data connectivity and the accessibility of international online payment methods are two such barriers. Although there will be many more on the horizon if international governments continue to introduce restrictions designed to disincentivise international trade.

Overcoming the challenges of cross-border IP laws

International patent attorneys may struggle with challenges that other patent lawyers don’t have to face. None of these challenges is insurmountable. Seeking expert counsel on working in multilingual fields and effectively communicating with clients and colleagues in their native tongue is one way that international patent attorneys can bridge this gap.

Clear communication is key to overcoming the obstacles imposed upon cross-border IP lawyers because once these channels of communication have been opened up, many other issues – including those surrounding regional differences in patent law – can easily be ironed out.

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