International e-commerce laws have been evolving since the inception of the information technology age. International e-commerce transactions which take place over the vast network of computers have become more streamlined with the advancement of technology. The following topics will be evaluated and addressed in these series of articles: Intellectual properties, taxes, and alternative dispute resolution.
Intellectual property rights can be protected by registering trademarks, copyrights or patents with governmental agencies. For example, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) registers patents and trademarks. The United States Copyright Office registers copyrights. However, trade secrets cannot be registered with any government agencies. The trade secret owner is responsible to protect it by taking precautionary steps. International e-commerce and business law attorneys should recommend the following steps to their clients: (1) locate, identify, and mark the trade secrets; (2) restrict access to the trade secrets; (3) sign non-disclosure agreements with the trade secret holders; and (4) restrict access to the trade secrets. The Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”) defines a trade secret as information that derives independent economic value because it is not generally known or readily ascertainable and is the subject of efforts to maintain secrecy. It includes formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques, or processes that yield economic value – e.g., customer lists.
International e-commerce transactions will be taxed by the appropriate government agencies. In 2018, the United States Supreme Court addressed this issue in South Dakota v. Wayfair and acknowledged the states are losing revenue due to their incapability to collect sales tax from out-of-state retailers. Thus far, the Internet Tax Freedom Act (“ITFA”) and Streamlined Sales Tax Project have been implemented to prevent new taxes on e-commerce transactions and to simplify sales and use taxes.