The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers valuable IP-related business resources through an intellectual property (IP) attaché program. The program is structured to generally improve IP policies, laws and regulations abroad for the benefit of U.S. businesses and stakeholders, while providing country-specific IP-related materials and services to teach and inform. However, the program also makes representatives available who can act as points of contact for U.S. businesses to guide actions and to provide interactions with foreign governmental entities to addresses country-specific IP-related legal issues.

The representatives, designated as IP attachés, are based in various regions throughout the world, and serve for an initial period of two years, which can be extended up to a total of five years based on decisions of The International Trade Administration/Global Markets (ITA/GM) Assignments Office in consultation with the USPTO. During this time, they meet with host government officials to discuss changes in policies, laws and regulations related to IP systems that would be advantageous to the host countries. They also work with host government officials to provide training regarding U.S. IP laws to judges, prosecutors, patent examiners, and trademark examining attorneys. Further, the IP attachés provide public outreach programs to inform the public of the values of a strong IP system, and ensure a deeper understanding of IP filing, prosecution, and enforcement issues.

The IP attaché program was originally started when the U.S. posted an IP attaché to the U.S. World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva following a similar action by Japan during the Uraguay Round negotiations. The U.S. program was a success and eventually expanded to encompass representation related to other organizations. For example, the IP attaché in Geneva now is part of a mission to advance U.S. objectives as they relate not only to the WTO, but also to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the United Nations (UN). An IP attaché in Brussels covers issues relating to the European Union and European Commission.

The IP attaché program has also been expanded to address issues in specific regions having IP-related significance to the U.S. For example, in recent years China has had a rapidly expanding economy that has offered significant potential U.S. business opportunities. The USPTO has recognized that as the technological landscape of China changes and U.S. businesses look to introduce new products in an expanding market, inevitable difficulties will arise due to differences between the IP systems of each country.

To address these difficulties, the USPTO has based three IP attachés in China to work cooperatively with Chinese officials and to help U.S. businesses navigate the Chinese IP system and become aware of options for IP protection and enforcement. IP attachés in China cover national and regional issues, and are based in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

  1. The Beijing-based IP attaché covers a region including Beijing and the Shenyang consular districts.
  2. The Shanghai-based IP attaché covers a region including Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Henan and Taiwan.
  3. The Guangzhou-based IP attaché covers a region including Fujian, Guangdong, the Guangxi Provinces and Hainan Island.

USPTO IP attachés are based not only in China, but also in Brazil, India, Kuwait, Mexico, Peru, Thailand and the Ukraine. As with the IP attachés in China, each IP attaché covers a large geographical region. For example, the IP attaché in Rio De Janeiro addresses issues not only related to Brazil, but also to Argentina, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

USPTO attachés can be contacted directly. The USPTO’s website has a page which lists contact information for IP attachés by specific location, and includes emails, phone numbers and office addresses. Also provided are the IP attaché biographies outlining specific IP attaché responsibilities at each location.

Should you prefer to learn more about IP attachés and their roles through an interactive medium, the USPTO is offering an IP attaché round-table on December 12, 2018 which will involve presentations by IP attachés and a question and answer session. This is offered at no charge, and registration information can be found here. The meeting is open to members of the public to attend on a first-come, first-served basis.

The variations across countries regarding what IP can be protected, the terms of protection, and the enforcement of rights can be great and can lead to confusion and lost prospects and revenue. The USPTO IP attaché program is a valuable tool that can inform, prevent confusion, and lead to better business decisions and marketing outcomes. Consideration for use of this program should be given for individuals and entities considering world-wide or country specific IP endeavors. To learn more, visit the USPTO home link for the IP attaché program provided below, which includes multiple videos and additional publications related to the USPTO Attaché Program.