Over the past number of years Saskatchewan’s exports have exponentially grown, and being involved with the exporting business community as a service provider as well as in a governance capacity with the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership has given me a strong perspective on the importance of IP asset protection for exporters as they expand their product lines and markets globally. It becomes more and more important for companies exporting to develop and execute a fulsome foreign market strategy in terms of the protection of their intellectual property assets, as the geographic reach of company imports and exports expands. With an expanded footprint it becomes more and more difficult to on a day-to-day basis maintain tight control over the use and exploitation of your IP assets and as such both in terms of third parties in the marketplaces where you are doing business as well as in terms of distribution arrangements or other local partners it is important to have taken the necessary steps to protect your intellectual property assets such that if there comes a point in time where either a third-party infringement occurs or even if a local distribution or agency relationship dissolves in a non-amicable fashion, it is important to be able to maintain control over your intellectual property assets in market and minimize the possibility of difficulties from these types of third-party activities.
One of the first activities I would often recommend to an exporter making market entry plans is to contemplate the basic protection of their trademarks or brands in those foreign markets. As well, with certain intellectual property asset classes it is necessary to factor in foreign market plans as the overarching strategy is developed – for example on the patent front if a company is first contemplating protecting their patents in Canada but they anticipate ending up in additional markets, the patent legal framework in terms of public disclosure or other time frames becomes relevant in terms of the development of the originating or local patent strategy as well.
One of the key things that allows us to provide the best possible end to end international portfolio management services for our clients is our strong relationships with foreign agents in countries far and wide. We work with personally known agents in local markets to provide the best possible tailored intellectual property advice for individual clients. As well, even in circumstances where clients are doing business in foreign markets and do not elect to undertake detailed intellectual property protection approach, we can often use our network of foreign associates to provide local market oversight and assistance with respect to general commercial and contract legal matters as well.
A final category of general intellectual property strategies with which we can be of assistance relates to cooperative business relationships with foreign firms. To the extent that companies are seeking to do business with others in international jurisdictions and that those business relationships may impact the intellectual property assets of either party, providing consulting and strategic oversight and input in terms of the management of these issues as well as even on issues of freedom to operate or other similar concerns are some other strategic areas in which intellectual property assistance such as we can provide might be required by companies doing business outside of their home jurisdiction.
Get in touch if you are ready to take the next steps in developing your foreign market strategy.
One of the first exercises which can be undertaken by a company looking to maximize the value of their IP assets is to undertake an IP audit or inventory. By reviewing the different areas of your business, to identify and inventory different categories of IP rights or obligations that exist in the company, the bigger picture for a proactive IP strategy can be mapped. Identify areas in which the most IP flight risk or leakage exists, or areas in which the most innovation is taking place, and allocate your resources accordingly. In addition to preparing an inventory of the types of intellectual property assets that exist within a company, another aspect of an IP audit which is sometimes of use is for companies to actually conduct an audit of various business agreements and documents to ascertain types of incoming and outgoing rights which have been granted or acquired, to understand how those inbound or outbound licenses or other agreements might affect the IP strategy or IP abilities of the company.
An IP audit is a good starting point to a better understanding of IP in your organization. The audit can start with a small focus and be expanded or completed over time, or completed in a more omnibus fashion. We can help. And understanding your business and industry can yield a stronger inventory result, as the weighting and importance of different categories of IP rights in the resulting analysis of the audit results can vary based on your industry or your business objectives. Initiating an IP inventory in your organization can also help on an ongoing basis, as it gives management the opportunity to review opportunities and challenges in the internal innovation or research and development cycle on an ongoing basis.