How do I enforce my intellectual property rights in a foreign country?

First, you must determine if you have rights to the intellectual property in that country. Patents and trademarks are territorial and must be registered in each country where protection is sought. A U.S. patent or trademark does not afford protection in another country. For copyrights, as a result of international copyright treaties and conventions, many countries do not require registration of a U.S. copyright in order to enjoy copyright protection. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country.

Once you have confirmed you have intellectual property rights (IPR) in a foreign country, you must seek to enforce your rights using the civil, administrative and criminal enforcement remedies available in that country. IPR are private rights; therefore, you must protect your rights in accordance with the IPR laws of that country. Intellectual property laws can be complex, so it is recommended that you seek local legal counsel to explore potential remedies.

The U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Intellectual Property Rights (OIPR) can assist you in developing an enforcement strategy. OIPR, Commerce’s country experts, and other U.S. Government IPR experts, stand ready to work with U.S. firms to help them protect their intellectual property abroad. In many cases, OIPR can provide companies with information to aid in navigating a foreign government’s legal system, including lists of local investigative firms and attorneys, and share experiences and expertise in that country. However, the U.S. Government cannot provide American companies with legal advice or advocate on a company's behalf when a matter is before a court or administrative agency. If you would like to work with OIPR to develop an enforcement strategy, please contact OIPR by telephone at  (202) 482-1191 or our Contact Us page.

In the event you have attempted to enforce your IPR through a foreign government’s legal system and the foreign government has failed to provide an adequate remedy, OIPR, in cooperation with its interagency colleagues, may be able to raise concerns related to the effective administration of legal remedies available to IPR holders with foreign government officials. OIPR’s efforts to assist with IPR disputes are aimed at achieving a fair and timely resolution in accordance with international commitments and foreign laws, and in advancing adequate legal and judicial protection for all parties.