Five steps to protecting your IP when exporting

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Working with small and medium business (SME) exporters on a daily basis, we get a lot of feedback on some of the key challenges they face when entering new overseas markets. From understanding cultural differences to what currency to trade in, the challenges of exporting can seem daunting, even to an established business.

One issue that continually comes up in our conversations with SME exporters is Intellectual Property (IP). Protecting your IP in the domestic market can seem confusing, open that up to multiple overseas markets and the task can appear overwhelming.

We’ve teamed up with IP Australia to develop our Protecting your IP overseas specialist paper. Here are five steps to help you develop a robust IP strategy for your export business that will help put you on the right path for export success:

Consider your export strategy
Be as clear as possible about which markets offer the best potential for your product– your IP strategy will be driven by your export strategy.

The markets you target may depend on macroeconomic factors, like population size, demographics or disposable income, or it may come down to the markets with the best cultural fit for your product.

Being clear about which markets you want to target will make it easier when you start looking into the IP arrangements that apply to each jurisdiction.

Another option is to sell the rights to your IP to a third party, allowing them to manufacture and sell your product in particular markets, rather than exporting yourself.

Do your research
When exporting to a new country, along with focusing on protecting your own IP, you’ll also need to ensure that you’re not breaching another company’s IP in the process.

While your brand and product range may be unique in Australia, doing some research can help to prevent your company from expensive legal challenges from potential overseas competitors.

Engaging an IP attorney to complete a thorough search on your behalf is a great idea, however doing some research yourself at first instance when putting together your export strategy will also help to ensure that there are no nasty surprises.

You should also confirm that your brand and/or product name, and any images that you use, are not considered unlucky or offensive in other languages and cultures.

Choose your solutions
You may be surprised to learn that your product may have more than one patentable element.

Given that there are costs involved, this means that you may need to decide which element (or elements) of your product to cover with IP protection.

A good approach is to prioritise the IP elements of your product, and think about how you might like to use each one in the future. This will help you to decide on the most valuable element(s), which will make it easier to choose the correct IP solution to protect it.

Understand the costs
While every market is different, protecting all of your IP across multiple markets could prove to be an expensive exercise, especially if more than one element needs protection.

That’s why you may need to balance the costs involved with the potential costs to your business, should someone copy and sell your product.

Enlist expert advice
No matter how much research you do, finding the right IP strategy for your business can be a complex process.

Enlisting the help of professionals who specialise in IP protection means you might not only find solutions that you haven’t yet considered, you’ll also likely get the benefit of their expertise and experience.

Finding an IP specialist (such as a registered patent or trademark attorney or lawyer_ that understands your business, and the markets to which you’re exporting, can help ensure that their recommended IP strategy offers the protection that is most appropriate for your business.

For more information, download our free Protecting your IP overseas special paper to help you learn more about protecting your intellectual property when exporting.

Want to find out more about how Export Finance Australia could help your export business grow?
Call us on 1800 093 724.

Important Information:
The information in this article is published for general information only and does not comprise advice or a recommendation of any kind. A person or entity should seek their own independent legal and financial advice. While Export Finance Australia endeavours to ensure this information is accurate and current at the time of publication, Export Finance Australia makes no representation or warranty as to its reliability, accuracy or completeness. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Export Finance Australia will not be liable to you or any other person for any loss or damage suffered or incurred by any person arising from any act, or failure to act, on the basis of any information or opinions contained in this article.
The specialist paper referred to in this article was produced in collaboration with IP Australia. Certain information in the specialist paper has been sourced from IP Australia. Please refer to their website ( for up-to-date information.