Unfortunately, the rights granted by a U.S. patent or trademark can only be enforced in the United States and generally have no effect in a foreign country. If you want to safeguard your intellectual property rights in other countries must take additional steps to ensure international protection.

Since securing and registering patents, trademarks, and copyrights in foreign markets can be exceedingly complex, it is generally advisable to work with an experienced intellectual property attorney who can work with you to create an international IP strategy.

Here is a brief look at the process and a short summary of the legal issues regarding protecting IP overseas.

Patents and Trademarks

Patents and trademarks are territorial and must be filed in each country where protection is sought. However, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) streamlines the process of filing patents in multiple countries. By filing one patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), U.S. applicants can concurrently seek protection in up to 143 countries.

The Madrid Protocol also makes it easier to file for trademark registration in multiple countries. By filing one trademark registration application with USPTO, U.S. applicants can concurrently seek protection in up to 84 countries.


Although most countries do not require copyright registration in order to enjoy copyright protection, registration can offer several benefits, such as proof of ownership. The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other’s citizens’ copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country. A listing of countries and the nature of their copyright relations with the United States is available here.

If you need help determining how best to protect your ideas here or overseas, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.