Archive for the ‘Intellectual Property’ Category

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Exporters: Protect Your Innovations!

March 21, 2016

Mary Lynn Landgraf is a Senior International Trade Specialist with ITA’s Office of Textiles and Apparel

Exporters and future exporters, take heed: your most valuable business asset is your intellectual property (IP), which includes everything from the devices you invent to the logos and brand names you use in marketing your products.  In today’s global marketplace, protecting your IP is a critical component of ensuring future growth in sales, particularly for companies exhibiting at trade shows such as the upcoming Hannover Messe Trade Show.

stopfakes.gov

stopfakes.gov

Here are four easy-to-navigate websites that any company can use before venturing overseas to ensure that valuable IP resources are protected.

  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers an IP Awareness Assessment tool that helps businesses understand their current level of protection and export readiness, and how an intellectual property strategy may work best for them based on their individual needs.
  • USPTO is also working to launch a national pro bono network with regional bar associations and attorneys to help under-resourced inventors navigate the patent system.
  • USPTO offers an online toolkit for companies that need help understanding patent litigation.
  • STOPfakes) gathers information on numerous U.S. government IP initiatives to improve intellectual property protection and enforcement for U.S. companies in markets around the globe. Of particular note is the Business Tools section, which provides exporters with country-specific information on how to register and protect their patents and trademarks.

For those companies planning to exhibit in Hannover or at any other German trade show, our colleagues in Germany have put together a wonderful page highlighting several additional resources to help you protect your IP.

The above resources will help you to protect your innovations and market your products safely at home and overseas.  I encourage you to visit these websites today – it’s never too soon to take action in protecting your most valuable assets!

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From the Experts: A Playbook for Mitigating Cyber Risk to Your Corporate Networks As You Grow Your International Presence

February 4, 2016

Murat Muftari is an International Trade Specialist for the U.S. Commercial Service in Eastern Michigan

Newsflash: If your company has a virtual presence then you’re automatically exposed to more cyber intrusions. And if your company is based in the U.S. and has an international footprint, the target on your company’s back is likely bigger than your non-U.S. competitors – a testament to American innovation.

Cyber Security

The majority of cyber intruders enter corporate networks through e-mails or web browsers – two systems accessed constantly by most employees.

Every day, cyber criminals around the globe gain access to proprietary information like product design specifications, supply chain details, negotiation strategies, intellectual property, and background on joint ventures and other partner agreements. These cyber intrusions result in tangible costs: according to the Ponemon Institute and IBM, in 2015 the average annual cost of a data breach was $3.8 million per company. Today’s 21st century business opportunities are inextricably linked to 21st century risk.

In January, the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturer’s Association and the U.S. Commercial Service East Michigan, gathered a panel of legal, cyber, and law enforcement experts to discuss their recommendations for avoiding cybersecurity risks as you grow your business.

According to Quinn Kuzmich at MainNerve, a cybersecurity services firm, you can choose to do three things with this risk: mitigate it, transfer it, and accept it. Companies must balance the priorities of reducing their vulnerabilities to cyberattacks, while being cognizant of risks they may be accepting at the same time.

The experts at the event presented a few cornerstones on which to build a successful corporate “cyber protection plan”:

  • An educated workforce
    • The majority of cyber intruders enter corporate networks through e-mails or web browsers – two systems accessed constantly by most employees. That reality means training your employees can be the most effective tactic in mitigating the vulnerability of your company’s intellectual property housed on your corporate networks. The more your employees can identify and avoid phishing attacks, spearing attempts, and malicious websites, the safer your corporate networks (and the proprietary information they safeguard) will be.
  • A skeptical IT security team
    • You have a problem if your IT security team says your corporate networks are safe. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), 69 percent of cyber intrusions are detected by a third party, meaning internal IT security teams are often not the ones finding vulnerabilities in their own networks. “Once hackers gain access to a network, their goal is to remain undetected as long as possible while elevating their level of access to sensitive information,” says Tom Winterhalter, Supervisory Special Agent with Detroit’s FBI office.

According to Kuzmich, a proactive IT security team is always skeptical of the safety of their own systems. They should perform regular penetration tests to find opportunities that cybercriminals see themselves. The team should bring up vulnerabilities, new threats, and concerns in meetings to the point that they sound like a broken record. If your IT security team fits that bill, they are much more likely to find cyber intrusions on their own networks and won’t be afraid to report them immediately.

  • Relationships with the right partners
    • Stories emerge daily about the latest firm with egg on their face, detailing how sensitive customer data or proprietary corporate information ended up in the hands of bad actors. Let’s face it: reporting a cyber intrusion to authorities can be embarrassing. However, the sooner you inform law enforcement of suspicious activity on your corporate networks, the quicker they can spring into action.“Being up front with law enforcement as soon as possible after you’ve found a breach can protect your assets, your intellectual property, and your employees,” according to Kuzmich. Alerting authorities doesn’t mean your story goes public – they have good reasons to keep the details confidential. The Cyber Crimes Unit at the Detroit FBI keeps their case information secret to limit the possibility that more cyber criminals will adopt previously effective tactics.If you have concerns your intellectual property was compromised in a cyber attack originating from overseas, the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) is another enforcement agency in your corner. The USPTO’s intellectual property experts embedded in many foreign countries go to bat for U.S. firms whose IP is compromised, even through cyber means.

With just one click of the mouse or a stroke of a key, cyber criminals can send your company reeling. Stopping every cyber attack against your firm is not likely an attainable goal; however, there are steps you can take to mitigate and transfer the risk associated with today’s connected world.

If you start with a network of educated employees, a team of ever-questioning IT professionals, and a collection of key partnerships, you’ll be on your way to better protecting your company’s proprietary information housed across your network. And in an ever-increasing globalized and knowledge based world, learning to proactively manage those risks will leave your company primed to take advantage of the 21st century opportunities that exist in the global marketplace.

 

 

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UNITED STATES, APEC Economies Endorse Privacy Recognition in Support of Processors in Global Data Value Chain

October 26, 2015

Michael Rose is Policy Advisor in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Digital Services Industries 

At the recent Senior Officials Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in the Philippines, the United States spearheaded the effort to draft and endorse the governing documents necessary to operationalize the APEC Privacy Recognition for Processors (PRP) system.  The success of this effort has led to the creation of a second system in APEC to certify the corporate privacy programs of data processors and allow for data transfers between APEC economies.  The PRP System was designed to help data processors demonstrate their ability to provide effective implementation of a personal information controller’s privacy obligations and to help controllers identify qualified and accountable processors.

The PRP was conceived as a companion to the existing APEC Cross-border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system, which provides a means for data controllers to transfer personal data across participating APEC economies in a manner in which individuals may trust that the privacy of their information is protected.  The CBPR system was endorsed by President Obama and other APEC leaders in November 2011, and held out as a model for facilitating global interoperability of privacy frameworks in the President’s 2012 Privacy Blueprint.  As a participant in the CBPR system, the United States has worked with a team of experts from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, and New Zealand to support the creation of the PRP system to expand the benefits of the digital value chain to data processors in the APEC region.

The 21 member economies of APEC endorsed the CBPR and PRP systems as a means of strengthening consumer privacy protections and trust across the Asia Pacific region while facilitating trade by minimizing barriers to the cross-border flow of information.

Both the APEC CBPR & PRP systems are voluntary but enforceable systems which promote a set of mutually recognized data privacy practices for companies doing business in participating APEC economies.  With the endorsement of the PRP, the total global value chain of the digital economy is supported by for a system of robust privacy rules that enables the cross-border data flows necessary for global trade.

While economies consider taking the necessary steps to join the PRP system, businesses and potential Accountability Agents can learn more by reviewing all relevant documentation and requirements at CBPRs.org.

ITA is excited to be leading this work on behalf of the Department of Commerce and is looking forward to encouraging additional countries and companies to join both the CBRP and PRP systems.  This is cutting edge work that could lead to a system that will help all stakeholders further strengthen privacy protection and increase trade and economic growth throughout the APEC region.  For additional questions about these initiatives, please contact Michael Rose at Michael.Rose@trade.gov

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San Diego/Tijuana Mega-Region Drives and Expands Bilateral Trade

April 20, 2015

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

John Andersen is the International Trade Administration’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere.

Last week, I traveled to San Diego and Tijuana to meet with companies on both sides of the border and learn about the dynamic coproduction in the U.S.-Mexico border region. More than $1.5 billion in trade crosses the U.S.-Mexico border every day and much of that value is generated in the largest metropolis between San Diego and Tijuana.

While in Tijuana I toured the Welch Allyn plant, a medical device manufacturing facility that sources more than 85 percent of its inputs from the United States. The company, which is headquartered in upstate New York, selected its Baja California location to be close to its largest consumer market, North America.

While in Mexico, I also met with the dynamic binational Smart Border Coalition, a group that works diligently to improve efficiencies along the various border crossings between California and Baja California. In our discussion, we talked about how we could work together better to hasten the development of important cross-border land ports of entry, including the Xpress Airport facility that will provide U.S. citizens with direct access to the Tijuana International Airport; the proposed Otay Mesa East crossing, which will double commercial vehicle crossing capacity in San Diego County; and reactivation of the desert railroad line that will allow regional manufacturers to export their heavy manufactured goods at a lower cost. The U.S. Department of Commerce will help facilitate these projects within the U.S. government border management process, and binationally with Mexico, to increase border capacity at new and existing ports of entry.

After returning to San Diego via the San Ysidro port of entry, the busiest land border of entry in the world, I met with several U.S. companies based in San Diego County to understand and address their export concerns. One of the companies I spoke with at length, Taylor Guitars,   successfully exports their products to several markets overseas.

Taylor Guitars shared that they have recently been battling counterfeit products imported from China. I explained that one of the Obama administration’s top priorities is to expand free trade agreements, which will establish common standards and protections for U.S. companies. Free trade agreements, not only reduce trade barriers, allowing U.S. products to enter foreign markets at lower prices, but they also ensure that U.S. companies have recourse to combat corrupt practices of competitors and provide protections for intellectual property rights for U.S. companies.

The administration is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which will link the United States with growing markets in Latin America and Asia. It is estimated that in the next two decades, nearly 50 percent of the world’s economic growth will come from the Asia-Pacific region, yielding almost one billion new middle-class consumers.

The businesses I spoke with in San Diego were supportive of the administration’s goal to expand U.S. free trade agreements and understood the importance of Trade Promotion Authority which will allow the executive branch to secure the best trade deals possible for U.S. companies. The companies expressed their hope that TPP would enable them to expand their exports into the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region and help them to better protect their intellectual property.

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U.S.-China Relations: Great for TV, but Greater for the U.S. Economy

December 11, 2014

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Picture of the capitolFrank Underwood doesn’t understand the purpose of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT).

Maybe you know of Frank Underwood, the main character on the show House of Cards, played by Kevin Spacey. If so, you may remember how he conspired with colleagues in the White House and State Department to orchestrate a trade war with China.

How did he do it? Through the JCCT negotiations.

While Mr. Underwood is commonly known in the United States, it’s much less likely that the average American knows what the JCCT is, aside from it being some way for a fictional administration to create tension with a major U.S. international partner.

Though it isn’t a household term, the importance of the JCCT can’t be overlooked. While Mr. Underwood used the JCCT to start a trade war, the reality is that the United States and China use it to support trade peace – resolving bilateral tensions and exploring areas of mutual cooperation.

The United States and China established the JCCT in 1983 as the primary forum for addressing trade and investment issues, and promoting commercial opportunities between the two countries.

The JCCT has since resulted in significant progress on issues U.S. businesses have identified as priority concerns in China, including:

  • protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights;
  • government procurement;
  • standards, testing, and certifications; and
  • issues specific to certain sectors like information technology, energy, and travel and tourism.

Improving American businesses’ ability to compete on a level playing field in China through the JCCT and other bilateral engagements has contributed to growth of U.S. exports and business activity in China’s market, supporting the American economy and job growth. It has also helped drive important reform in China’s economy, supporting innovation and growth there as well.

The next round of high-level JCCT Meetings are in Chicago this month and we’re looking forward to using this opportunity to address bilateral trade concerns and deepen positive economic engagement between our governments and commercial sectors.

Why does JCCT matter to the average U.S. citizen?

  • China is our second largest trading partner. U.S. total exports to China have nearly tripled since 2005, reaching $122 billion in 2013.
  • U.S. goods & services exports to China support nearly 796,000 U.S. jobs.
  • Continued growth in China’s middle class will create even more promising export opportunities for U.S. companies.
  • To continue with Mr. Underwood’s example, China is now the top goods export market for his home state of South Carolina. The state’s goods exports to China reached $4.9 billion in 2013, which is nearly eight times greater than in 2005.

Lastly, not to quibble with the House of Cards writers, the show makes one important error: the Secretary of State was in charge of the JCCT discussions, and provided guidance to the U.S. team of negotiators.

In fact, that team would have been led by the Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative. Secretary Pritzker and Ambassador Froman will lead the U.S. delegation and be joined by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Premier Wang Yang.

While we have yet to see those officials portrayed in the show, we look forward to seeing them play prominent roles in upcoming seasons…

More importantly, we look forward to the 25th JCCT this month, and to seeing the continued positive effects these important meetings have on the U.S. and Chinese economies and our commercial relationship.

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Five Tips for Protecting Your Intellectual Property in Global Business

April 23, 2014

Ken Mouradian is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Orlando Export Assistance Center.

You spent the time and money to build your business, including the development of products and services (patents, trade secrets and copyrights), business methods (trade secrets), brands (trademarks and service marks), and your presence on the Internet (trademarks and associated domain names, copyrights). Why wouldn’t you protect these Intellectual Property (IP) assets from unauthorized use?

Stopfakes.gov is your portal to resources for protecting intellectual property.Many small businesses are at a disadvantage in not having the expertise or resources to prevent theft of their intellectual property in the global marketplace. So in recognition of World IP Day on April 26, here are some simple, practical measures that any exporter can take to protect their IP assets:

  1. Conduct an IP audit. An IP audit will document the assets that you own, the assets that you may be acquiring, and how you’re using other people’s IP. It should support your export marketing plan, as an IP audit allows you to make business decisions about which assets to protect in each market. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; and it’s something that you can do yourself.
  2. Own your business… all of it! If you allow your foreign business partner to register your IP, in most foreign countries, they become the “right holder.” You need to register your own IP assets and record trademark and copyright registrations (and in some countries, design patents) with the customs administration to block the import and export of infringing items.
  3. Know your partners. Your local U.S. Export Assistance Center can help you to qualify existing or potential foreign business partners. Include provisions in your contracts that require the use of original and unaltered products and preclude the partners’ registration of your IP.
  4. Monitor the use of your IP. Plan to visit the market regularly; and use track-and-trace technology like RFID or bar codes to make it easier to audit products and spot fakes. Monitor domain names, e-commerce and auction platforms; and use Internet search engines – including image search – to find infringing products online. Include the obligation to report instances of infringement in your contracts with foreign business partners; and train business partners to spot fakes.
  5. Have an enforcement strategy. Make it part of your export marketing plan to know the administrative and legal relief available to you to enforce your Intellectual Property Rights in each export market. STOPfakes.gov offers country toolkits for select markets. You can also obtain country-specific information from U.S. embassies by contacting your local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

There is no substitute for qualified legal counsel. However, there is a lot that you can do yourself to get started. For more information, please visit www.STOPfakes.gov and the Inventors Resources Center from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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STOPfakes.gov Road Shows Bring U.S. Government Tools and Assistance to You

September 26, 2012

Andrea Cornwell is an International Trade Specialist in the Office of Intellectual Property Rights (OIPR) within the Market Access and Compliance unit of the International Trade Administration. Raquel Cohen, also an International Trade Specialist in OIPR, coordinated the STOPfakes.gov Road Shows.

Hello from Chicago, where I just wrapped up our most recent stop on ITA’s STOPFakes.gov Road Shows tour.  The Road Shows have been a hit across the U.S. After a whirlwind tour to eight cities, my colleagues and I have met with hundreds of U.S. companies, educating them on how to protect and enforce their intellectual property rights (IPR) in the U.S. and in foreign markets.  At each Road Show, our team of experts covered the basics—how to protect your company’s patents, trademarks, and copyrights—and advised on protection for online content and useful law enforcement resources to seize counterfeit products.   We also offered free one-on-one consultations for U.S. companies at the end of each session.

My colleagues and I have enjoyed getting to meet U.S. exporters across the country, and have appreciated hearing first-hand about the challenges they face with respect to protecting and enforcing their IPR.  During my time in Chicago, some common questions that companies have asked include:

If you weren’t able to join us at one of our Road Shows, don’t worry – you haven’t missed your chance to ask your questions!  We’re always ready to help U.S. companies with IPR-related issues, and can be reached through the contact page on our one-stop IPR portal, STOPfakes.gov.

And don’t forget, the STOPfakes.gov Road Show has one more stop in Oklahoma City on September 28.  For more information about our final stop, please contact Ashley Wilson at ashley.wilson@trade.gov.

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