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LI exporters must prepare, protect trademarks, experts say

Jody Stein, of vitamin manufacturer U.S. Quality Drug

Jody Stein, of vitamin manufacturer U.S. Quality Drug Co. Inc., says there's no substitute to visiting foreign markets of interest. Credit: Barry Sloan

Businesses wanting to export their goods or services must do a lot of advance work to be successful in foreign markets, experts said yesterday at Hofstra University.

Preparation, which can be costly, is crucial to securing customers and protecting against counterfeiters.

The experts, speaking in a panel discussion to about 80 business people, said exporters also must comply with domestic and international regulations, including embargoes against trade with Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan.

“It costs a lot of money to get started; it’s an investment and requires a lot of patience,” said Jody Stein, international sales vice president at U.S. Quality Drug Co. Inc., the exporting arm of vitamin and dietary supplements manufacturer Tishcon Corp. of Westbury.

“But once you get into different markets and things are running smoothly, it can be very lucrative,” she said at the event organized by the local office of the U.S. Commercial Service, a unit of the federal Department of Commerce.

U.S. Quality, which also is based in Westbury, sells vitamins through distributors in Iceland and Japan, among others. It is preparing to enter the Brazil market and investigating opportunities in India.

Stein and others said there is no substitute to visiting a foreign market and building ties there to distributors, transportation companies and others that facilitate trade.

Before selling overseas, companies should protect their proprietary information with patents, trademarks and licenses, not just in the United States and Canada, but in the foreign nations they are targeting, said Pina M. Campagna, an intellectual property attorney with the Melville firm of Carter, DeLuca, Farrell & Schmidt.

Campagna estimated a patent for a simple product could cost $5,000 to $7,000, and for computer software, $10,000 to $15,000. And she said some nations charge a yearly maintenance fee to keep a patent active.

In addition, businesses must be mindful of U.S. regulations governing overseas sales and financial transactions.

Michael Perry, a special agent with the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, said exporters are responsible when their products fall into the wrong hands.

He identified red flags that could indicate a foreign partner isn’t legitimate, including the use of hotmail and Gmail addresses, websites that are constantly under construction, orders for outdated products and personnel with little knowledge of what they are buying.

Perry said, “If you get into a market . . . and you are violating the export rules and regulations, it could shut your business down as quickly as you got it started.”

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