Extraterritorial Jurisdiction for Trademark and Copyright

by Holly Cameron
Protection of intellectual property rights overseas aids international commerce.

Protection of intellectual property rights overseas aids international commerce.

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Extraterritorial jurisdiction applies where a government has the right to exercise legal authority beyond its national boundaries. Trademarks and copyright are forms of intellectual property that protect brand names, logos and original artistic or literary works. United States law prohibits the unauthorized use of trademarks and copyright works within U.S. boundaries. However, if an overseas individual or business uses your trademark or infringes your copyright, the remedies available depend on whether or not the United States has a treaty with the country where the alleged infringement occurs.

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Trademark rights protect unique brand words, phrases, designs or symbols from unlawful use by others. Rights exist as soon as you start using your trademark in commerce and become stronger with continued use. The United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, registers trademarks for brand names and logos in the United States.

International Trademarks

The international Madrid Protocol allows the owner of a trademark to apply for international registration, if he already owns, or has applied for, a U.S. trademark. The international trademark must relate to the same brand name or logo as the domestic trademark. An international trademark protects the owner’s rights in any of the countries that have signed the Protocol. U.S. nationals can apply via the USPTO for an international trademark for a period of up to 10 years.


Copyright laws protect original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works from unauthorized reproduction in the U.S. and Title 17 of the United States Code contains the relevant laws. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created in a tangible form and registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not necessary. Registration does, however, provide a public record of the work and the author’s claim to it.

International Copyright Protection

You cannot apply for an international copyright, but international treaties, including the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the Universal Copyright Convention, protect foreign works in the United States and U.S. works overseas. Individuals can enforce their copyrights in any country that has signed up to one of these international treaties. The U.S. Copyright Office provides a list of countries that are party to international copyright conventions.

Enforcing International Trademarks and Copyright

Claims to enforce a trademark or copyright should be made in the country where the alleged violation occurred. The Office of Intellectual Property Rights, or OIPR, assists U.S. businesses to protect their intellectual property rights overseas.