The decision to sell your products to customers abroad was perhaps made hastily. News about your brand’s innovation had trickled abroad and inquiries from customers living in cities far-flung from you were trickling back in. Happy with an emerging global demand for your goods, you started shipping overseas. But, uh oh, news of Chinese copycat products are starting to reach your ears. You are now rightly worried that your brand positioning could be weakened by a flood of competitors.
What can you do to protect your intellectual property internationally and fulfill orders from international customers?
Know your rights
Do you have an innovative product for which you have sought patent protection? If you do not know already, intellectual property rights are regionally based. That means that your filings for a U.S. patent, trademark, or copyright, for example, are only valid within the borders and territories of the United States itself.
Like many government commerce divisions, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers tips on international intellectual property rights as well as links to the intellectual property offices of the world’s most attractive foreign marketplaces. In keeping with the Patent Cooperation Treaty, U.S. businesses can file one application that allows them to seek protection in up to 143 countries at the same time. While efforts at patent cooperation between countries on patent filings, patent searches, and patent enforcement measures have been challenging, new tools are introduced regularly. Just last week, for example, the European Patent Office improved its Asian patent information, making it easier for businesses to search and retrieve Chinese patent documents without knowing Chinese.
Visit your government’s intellectual property office for more information.
Know your responsibilities
That you have unearthed a treasure trove of buyers for your products abroad is great. But how do you move beyond protecting your brand to really staking your claim in their markets? Answer: You have to move from seller’s rights to seller’s responsibility.
- Multilingual search engine optimization (MSEO): If you want to ward off copycat products, make it possible for your business to be found online by foreign buyers in their markets on the search engine sites that they are using. Learn the best practices of MSEO.
- Website translation / localization: If foreign news coverage of your product innovation has driven business to you from buyers abroad, you will want to provide them with information about the product in their own language to continue enjoying their business. The statistics show that most consumers search for and purchase products online in their own language. Lower the barriers to buying your products.
- Help / Support translation: Word of mouth advertising is one way that your business will continue to enjoy foreign sales of your product. So what better way to do that than to ensure that your buyers have a positive buying experience before, during, and after purchasing? Many companies have misstepped by not providing appropriate aftercare — if you have marketed your product online in their markets and provided product information in their language, make sure that product user manuals, quick start guides, and online help is also readily available in their languages when they need it. Make it easy for your buyers to speak well about your brand.
Know that you’re not alone
While the threat of Chinese copycat products and other brand challengers can cause any promising venture undue hassle, it is also an opportunity for the savvy business owner looking to court and win customers abroad. And you do not have to do it alone — translation and localization companies including us at Moravia help businesses like yours navigate the rough waves to foreign markets.
How is your business already dealing with the challenges of international customers? Share with us in the comments.