In you watched the Presidential debates between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney, you may have noticed references to patent law. In particular, Governor Romney referenced the difficulty small businesses may have enforcing patents against Chinese counterfeiters. While Mr. Romney may be correct that some nations may lack the United States’ stringent patent enforcement standards, this may miss the point for many small business owners.
It is true that international patent protection may be necessary to enforce patent rights when counterfeit goods are wholly made, used, or sold outside of the United States. As a result, business owners are, in those particular circumstances, reliant on the intellectual property enforcement capabilities of that foreign nation. Thus, nations with a poor record on Intellectual Property enforcement may lead to counterfeits being made, used, or sold abroad. International patent protection is, of course, a useful tool to curb this problem, but many Patent Attorneys often charge significant fees to obtain and enforce patents abroad. The high costs and potential difficulties of enforcement often make this an impractical solution for small business owners’ intellectual property protection.
For many business owners, however, cheap, foreign counterfeits are most troublesome when imported and sold in the United States at very low prices. Contra many business owners’ expectations, domestic United States patents may provide significant protection against cheap counterfeit imports: at the moment a product is imported in the United States, is may infringe on United States patents. Further, the United States has a relatively stellar reputation for enforcing intellectual property compared to many foreign nations in which cheap counterfeits originate. And as is so important to most small business owners, the cost of acquiring and domestically enforcing a United States patent against counterfeit imports is often considerably cheaper than enforcing foreign patent protection.
As a result, domestic United States patent protection should often serve as many small business owners’ first line of defense against counterfeit imports, and indeed may provide sufficient protection on its own for most small business owners’ purposes.
If you have questions about domestic and international patents, or patent protection in general, contact one of the patent attorneys at Mohr Intellectual Property Law.