How to Protect Your Intellectual Property in the Automotive Aftermarket

Counterfeit products, stolen designs, or even your trademark registered in another country by an imposter company – if you are a manufacturer in the automotive industry, these are only a few examples of problems you may encounter with regards to enforcing your intellectual property rights. The challenge is there and it is real – the market has never been as competitive as it is today and innovation is what really drives the success in the industry. Therefore, protecting your intellectual property should be of utmost priority to you especially if your business outsources some stages of the manufacturing process to an overseas company. In this article, we will describe the legal documents and other protective measures you need in order to effectively protect and enforce your intellectual property rights.


A trademark is a word, phrase, or symbol that distinguishes one manufacturer from another. Trademarks do not expire after a certain period and so, when registered, can be used interminably by the rightful owner. Registering your trademark as soon as possible is especially important if you do business or outsource manufacturing of your product in Southeast Asia. Many countries in this region adhere to a “first-to-file” system, which means that the party who manages to register a given trademark first will have the exclusive rights to use it. If you fail to register your trademark, another manufacturer can do so and then make various financial demands with regards to your presence in the market or your products, even threatening to sue if you don’t comply. Such practices are commonly known as “trademark squatting.” In order to obtain full protection from it, you should ideally register your trademark in both original Roman character and in the local language or languages as well.


Counterfeit parts constitute another important challenge automotive companies outsourcing to, or doing business in, Southeast Asia must promptly address. One way to prevent rampant counterfeiting and ensure accountability is to make use of patent registration and protection. A patent is a kind of a license that grants the inventor exclusive rights to make, use, and commercialize their invention for a certain period of time. According to the U.S. patent law, to be able to register a patent, the inventor must prove that the invention is novel, nonobvious, and useful. It is important to note, however, that many countries in Southeast Asia have their own laws regarding patents. Consulting with local patent specialists and registering patents locally is, then, highly advisable.

Industrial Design Protection

Industrial design refers to the appearance or adornment of a product. Just as it is the case with trademarks, many countries in Southeast Asia follow the “first-to-file” rule. This means that a manufacturer should apply with the appropriate local body to register the industrial design as soon as possible in order to prevent another party from stealing the design and registering it first.

Trade Secret Protection

A trade secret can be any kind of confidential business information related to the production process, design, method, practice, idea, etc. that gives a company its competitive edge. Protecting trade secrets may require some physical protective measures, but also a set of policies defining who can access sensitive information. Additionally, trade secrets can be protected via various agreements, such as NDAs with employees, manufacturers, subcontractors, vendors, and other actors and players who may be exposed to any confidential information.

Outsourcing to Southeast Asia? Contact BRADFORD, LTD for Legal Advice

Automotive companies that conduct business in Southeast Asia or outsource their manufacturing process overseas may encounter various legal issues with commercial and financial success. If you are currently experiencing problems related to exercising your IP rights across international markets, do not hesitate to contact our attorneys at BRADFORD, LTD. We will closely examine your situation and come up with the best solution to the issue that may otherwise pose a threat to your company’s success.

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Bradford LTD specializes in IP protections and maximization for startups and small businesses. We also provide scaled legal services to our clients, including fractional legal counsel and value-based rates. From trademark, copyright and service mark protections to patent protection and outside inside counsel, we help position entrepreneurs and owners for long-term success.

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