Intellectual property risk for food exporters

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Food exporters’ intellectual property could be at risk if appropriate protection isn’t taken
Food exporters’ intellectual property could be at risk if appropriate protection isn’t taken

Related tags Trademark

Food and drink manufacturers have been urged to protect their intellectual property (IP) rights before exporting overseas, as risks will grow once the UK leaves the EU.

Marks & Clerk trade mark attorney Aidan Clarke warned producers that entering new markets without the right protection could find their products copied or face the risk of an injunction by domestic manufacturers.

He said: “As exports reach record levels there is another threat to businesses that is much less talked-about, affecting worldwide trade, and it centres around IP rights.

“When you move into new markets without adequate protection you could be in serious trouble. Others could use your brand name, potentially stopping you from operating in those markets – or worse, you could face an injunction.”

Moved into new territories unprepared

The most vulnerable were companies that had recently seen rapid export success, according to Marks & Clerk. Firms at risk also had limited legal knowledge or resources and had moved into new territories unprepared.

A key part of any export plans should be seeking legal protection for brands before targeting overseas markets.

“You really must be proactive and secure the right protection before you get there, rather than trying to mop up afterwards,”​ added Clarke. “We have assisted companies who have already started trading in China for example, and later realised ‘we should maybe think about IP’.

​Nowadays, you can never be too early in China – as soon as you’re trading there, others will be very quick to copy. There are new laws to help those whose trademarks have been taken in bad faith, but you will still be on the back foot and may even have to take the case to an appeal.”

‘Never be too early in China’

An increased risk of counterfeiting is also a risk to food manufacturers trying to protect their product’s IP when they export abroad.

Meanwhile, counterfeiting across the world is predicted to increase by 3%​ a year as globalisation creates increasingly complex and lengthy supply chains, according to new research released in December by PMMI, the US Association for Packaging and processing Technologies.

PMMI director for business intelligence Paula Fieldman said: “It is increasingly important that we as an industry continue to take the necessary action to protect our brands, as well as those around the globe.”

Intellectual property in export markets: Who’s at risk?

  • Companies achieving rapid export success
  • Companies with limited legal knowledge or resources
  • Companies entering new territories unprepared 

Related topics Supply Chain

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