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Global Intellectual Property

When you start exporting in your business, you'll need to look into how you can protect your assets with global intellectual property.

You will learn

  • How you can protect your intellectual property abroad
  • What protection you can get in the EU
  • What an intellectual patent is

When you start selling your product around the world, you will need to make sure that you protect your global intellectual property. Strictly speaking, there is no singular world-wide protection for your business assets, but there are steps you can take to make sure your business assets remain your own.

If you have protected your intellectual property through the UK’s Intellectual Property Office, you will need to make sure that you protect it in the country that you are exporting to as well. Your UK patent or trademark is only relevant to the UK, so in international markets, other business owners would be legally able to use your ideas and designs. If you know what specific country you are going to be selling in, you can apply directly to their Intellectual Property organisation, and go through the protection process there before you start selling. Alternatively, if you are still unsure of where you want to sell or do not want to limit yourself to one country, you can get an EU or international patent through the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

Applying Directly

The direct approach is great if you know which country you want to sell in. This means directly applying for a patent in your chosen country within 12 months of filing for your original patent in the UK. You will have to find out and follow the patent application process for that country, and you should always seek professional guidance to help give yourself the best chance of success.

The European Patent Office

If you are interested in selling in Europe but not the rest of the world, you could look in to the European Patent Office to get your product protected in over 30 European countries. You can file for a European patent online or by post, and their website has an extensive guide to help you fill out the application, as well as a detailed e-learning module that you can access for free.


Your European patent application process needs to include:
⦁ A request for a “grant” – the approval of a European patent.
⦁ A description of your invention.
⦁ Who the inventor(s) is/are.
⦁ Your “claims” – the specific parts of your invention that you want to protect.
⦁ Drawings that show your invention, if it is applicable.
⦁ An “abstract” – which is a summary of the important technical part of your invention.

International Patenting

Your other option is to apply for an international patent if you are interested in selling in multiple countries. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PTC) can make sure you are protected in international markets. If successful, your business will be protected in any of the “Contracting States” across the world. You get a little bit more time with these patents too, you can apply for an additional 18 months after your original patent application in filed in the UK.

Your application can be done through your local patent provider (for the UK, this is the International Property Office) or through the World Intellectual Property Organization. There are 6 stages that your patent application will go through:
1. Filing – you will apply for your patent with the Intellectual Property Office or with the World Intellectual Property Organization and pay one set of fees.
2. International search – the International Search Agency will then research other patents to check yours is viable and gives a written opinion on your invention’s patentability.
3. International publication – after the 18 months of your first patent filing date your international application will be revealed to the world.
4. Optional supplementary international search – this is a second search of international patents to look more closely in to patents in different languages and technologies. You do not have to go through this stage.
5. Optional international preliminary examination – this is additional patentability analysis that you can choose to undertake. This can be useful if you have made some changes to your application and want to give yourself the best chance at a successful patent.
6. National phase – usually 30 months after you start your patent process in the UK, you can pursue the acceptance of your patents directly from the patent offices in the “contracting states” you want to sell in.

You can find out more about this type of protection here.


There are a few different options available to you when considering your global intellectual property, and each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. If you are looking to sell in an overseas market, you will need to seriously consider foreign patents to make sure your inventions remain your own, and to keep the competition low. If you know which market you want to sell in, you can apply directly for an additional patent in that country, or if you are looking to move in to multiple European or global markets, a European patent or protection under the Patent Cooperation Treaty might be the better choice for your business.


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Written by:

Beth Ellin

How's Business content writer

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