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  •     WTO: Intellectual Property

    How do I protect my intellectual property rights abroad?

    There are essentially three alternative procedures for applying for IP protection in other countries*.

    The national route

    One option is to seek protection in individual countries separately by applying directly to national industrial or IP offices. Each application may have to be translated into a prescribed language, which is usually the national language. You will be required to pay the national application fees and, particularly in the case of patents, you may need to entrust an IP agent or attorney who will assist you in making sure the application meets national requirements. Some countries require you to hire an IP agent. If you are still in the phase of assessing the commercial viability of an invention or are still exploring potential export markets or licensing partners, the national route would appear to be particularly expensive and cumbersome, especially where protection is being sought in a large number of countries. In such cases, the facilities offered by the WIPO-administered international filing and registration systems for inventions, marks and industrial designs (see below) offer a simpler and generally less expensive alternative.

    The regional route

    Some countries have established regional agreements for obtaining IP protection for an entire region with a single application. The regional IP offices include:

    - African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI, the regional IP office for French- and Portuguese-speaking Africa for patents, utility models, geographical indications, trademarks, industrial designs and, in the future, layout-designs of integrated circuits): http://oapi.wipo.net.

    - African Regional Industrial Property Organization (ARIPO, the regional IP office for English-speaking Africa for patents, utility models, trademarks and industrial designs): http://aripo.wipo.net.

    - Benelux Trademark Office & Benelux Designs Office (for trademark and industrial design protection in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg): www.bmb-bbm.org and www.bbtm-bbdm.org.

    - Eurasian Patent Office (for patent protection in countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States): www.eapo.org.

    - European Patent Office (for patent protection in all countries that are party to the European Patent Convention, currently 27 countries). More information may be obtained at: www.european-patent-office.org.

    Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (for the Community Trademark and the Community Design, which grant their proprietors a uniform right valid in all Member States of the European Union by means of one procedural system): http://oami.europa.eu/

    - Patent Office of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (for patent protection in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates): www.gccpo.org.

    The international route

    The WIPO-administered systems of international filing and registration systems greatly simplify the process for simultaneously seeking IP protection in a large number of countries. Rather than filing national applications in many languages, the international filing and registration systems enable you to file a single application, in one language, and to pay one application fee. These international filing systems not only facilitate the whole process but also, in the case of marks and industrial designs, considerably reduce your costs for obtaining international protection (in the case of patents, the PCT helps your enterprise to gain time to assess the commercial value of your invention before national fees are to be paid in the national phase). WIPO-administered systems of international protection include three different mechanism of protection for specific industrial property rights.

    • A system for filing international patent applications is provided under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (or PCT) system, the worldwide system for simplified multiple filing of patent applications.

    • International registration of trademarks is facilitated by the Madrid System.

    • International deposit of industrial designs is provided by the Hague Agreement.

    Further information on these systems will be provided later in issues.

    *The following paragraphs refer to patents, trademarks and industrial designs.


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