Moving Miami into international markets requires IP protection

By Augusto Perera, Esq.

Miami has become a Global City. For years, the city has been known as the Capital of Latin America, with immigrants arriving from South and Central America and businesses locating here as the doorway to the U.S. – or from here into the Americas. Now, the pandemic has accelerated Miami’s growth, with a rush of companies from New York, Chicago, and California tilting us to global status.

When a city becomes global, however, the value of intellectual property generated within its community is sometimes overlooked. When starting a new enterprise, founders are caught up in the demands of getting the business launched and then growing it. Often, they forget to seek protection for their creations, whether applying for trademark or copyright protection, or protecting their inventions overseas or within the United States. The same goes for local political leaders who don’t fully understand the implications of a city attaining global fame and fail to protect (and exploit) the intellectual property value generated by their metropolis.

The solution for both is to Think Globally, Brand Locally.

For local governments, that means creating and protecting brands that identify their cities. The recently created term “Nation Branding,” now used in marketing and communication, refers to the intangible values, reputation, and brand image of a nation, region, or city. The aim is to position products, services, and places globally. For example, the City of Coral Gables owns trademarks for “CORAL GABLES THE CITY BEAUTIFUL” and “THE CITY BEAUTIFUL,” while Miami-Dade County owns registrations for “VIZCAYA,” “MIAMI-DADE COUNTY FAIR & EXPOSITION,” and many more.

Nation Branding also means creating or supporting programs that help local businesses and entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market; for example, via tax incentives or using the resources of our universities and colleges. Next comes promoting local assets globally through trade missions that target specific countries, helping entrepreneurs with prospective distribution, sales, or manufacturing partners. Partnering with other cities around the world to exchange trade missions is another tool.

These are big picture branding events. The businesses that create unique products and services must first protect themselves in new markets via copyrights, patents, or trademarks. U.S. intellectual property protections are requisite, but taking that protection abroad is another question. Business owners and entrepreneurs are often surprised to find that intellectual property protections such as patents and trademarks are territorial in nature, meaning that protection is only granted in jurisdictions where the patent or mark is registered.

There are some international treaties, such as the Madrid Protocol, that allow owners of registered U.S. patents and trademarks to expand that protection to other member nations without the need to hire a lawyer in each new country. There are no such reciprocal treaties in the Americas, however; IP rights are protected only in the markets where the owners seek protection. That it is why, if an IP owner is going to manufacture or distribute overseas, it’s imperative to file for protection of that IP in those locales to prevent its theft by the manufacturer, distributor, or another local competitor.

Miami has set foot on the global stage, and it’s time for local government and businesses to take advantage of that brand and bring value to our community by investing in the protection of its products and services.

Augusto Perera, Esq. is an intellectual property attorney based in Coral Gables, Florida. Practice areas include copyrights, trademarks, business, and internet law.

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