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How To Protect Your IP Internationally: The Extreme Basics

I recently spoke with the in-house international IP lawyer at a high tech hardware client that does business all over the world, but mostly in emerging market countries with weak intellectual property rights and protections, including China. I asked him what he and his company do02 to protect its IP and he said they use a “Swiss-Army Knife approach,” meaning they do “everything and anything we can do”  He talked of the following:

1.  Don’t do business with bad people or bad companies because they are far more likely to try to steal your IP. Research those with whom you may do business. See Foreign Company Due Diligence. He noted that the “less impressive the legal system, the more impressive must be your due diligence.”

2. Register “anything and everything” that makes sense to register and do so in every country in which it makes sense to do so.

2.  Do not reveal to anyone what needs not be revealed. This includes to employees. And get confidentiality and trade secret and non-disclosure agreements protecting what is revealed.

3.  Constantly update the technology so that when someone does copy it, they are copying an older version. Educate your  customers to know how to distinguish between the older and newer versions and why they should prefer the newer better versions over the older versions.

4.  Act aggressively at the first sign of an IP or trade secret violation. He said he “could not even count the number of times his company had nipped a problem in the bud by having acted quickly.” See Cease and Desist Letters to Stop International Counterfeiting.

5.  Guanxi. His word, not mine. He said that in addition to all of the above, one of the most important things is having good relationships with your employees and your customers and the governments in the countries in which you operate because having this creates a “karma” (again, his word, not mine) that helps to protect you.

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