Last Published: 7/26/2016

While it is difficult to determine the exact scope and extent of the problem, every indication is that copyright piracy, trademark counterfeiting, and patent infringement have become significant problems in the business community in general, including small businesses. Certainly any small business that exports its IP protected products abroad or sources its products or parts overseas must take into account the potential for rampant IP theft in many countries.

U.S. small businesses are at a particular disadvantage, however, because they may lack the knowledge, expertise or resources necessary to prevent the theft of their ideas and products. In fact, research conducted by the USPTO found that only 15 percent of small businesses that conduct business overseas know that they need to file for IP protection abroad.

Many small businesses also may not have personnel and operations overseas, so they lack the "eyes and ears" needed to be vigilant globally and the theft of their IP can often go undetected. In addition, small businesses generally do not have the level of access or the resources, such as specialized legal counsel, that may be available to larger companies.

Recognizing this disadvantage, the U.S. Government has developed a number of free tools and resources for small businesses to help them more effectively tackle IP protection and enforcement at home and abroad.