Some advice to a prospective client on Intellectual Property (IP)

This week someone was asking for my advice on filing patents and trademarks in China before they source there. Of course in an ideal world you want to afford your IP all the protection it needs to ensure no one can take your idea and profit from it. But sometimes the window of opportunity for a new product or design is open for a very short time only and you have to move quickly if you want to build your business. In short, how much IP protection you give your product depends on your resources and how you see your own business. Below is my response to the person who ran this question by me.

I can understand your concern because I sometimes come up with ideas for products which I run by vendors in China and I am always a little careful because I know there is the risk that someone will just take my idea and run with it before I do anything. And so I was thinking today what I would do if I had an idea for a product and all the time and money in the world to develop it. In other words, what if I were financially secure regardless of the product and I was pretty sure that no one would come up with the same idea as me in the near distant future. The answer is I would try to protect my IP as completely as possible before I gave the designs to someone else. This would mean registering all patents and trademarks in my home country and manufacturing country before I actually started sourcing. And I would wait a year or two for the patents and trademarks to be approved before I got started.. Again, this is what I would do if I really thought I had a unique product and I was in no hurry and facing no financial burden to bring it to market as quickly as possible.

If on the other hand I was operating on a tight budget and I felt the need to get my product to market quickly I would probably just secure all my patents and trademarks where I would be selling the product and not worry too much about registration in China. My thinking is that as long as I have products to deliver to my customers and build my business I don’t care what they do with my product in another country. At the most I might just file for trademark registration in China at the onset of sourcing, just to have something on file in the event someone took my trademark and attempted to block my shipments. I certainly would not wait a year for the trademark to be approved because in that time someone else may come up with an idea similar to mine. And that is a year of lost sales. However, as soon as I was in a good position, in other words when sales were strong and it was obvious I had a viable business I would take care of all the China registrations and do so ASAP.

But once again this is just me. I think you have to look at your product and your business and where you want to be a year from now, two years from now, five etc etc and make your own decisions accordingly.’ Know thyself ‘ as it is often said.



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