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 & 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 the company 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.