Authentication or legalization of documents is a necessary step in international patent and trademark filing. Most countries require a legalized power of attorney and/or assignment document for presentation to their respective intellectual property office in order to prove that signatures are genuine. This is done by obtaining either an apostille or authentication, depending on the country in which you are filing.
In an effort to replace the cumbersome formalities of the full authentication process, the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirements for Legalization for Foreign Public Documents of October 5, 1961 established a simpler process for member countries to recognize the legitimacy of a document. Obtaining an apostille is a fairly simple process, and it gives a document VIP status for acceptance by any country that is a party to the Hague Convention. Always check the list of member countries to ensure that the country in which you are filing is a member. Once this is established, simply send your notarized document to your state’s Secretary of State outlining your request. They will return the document to you with an apostille attached. Your document is now ready for submission to the member country’s intellectual property office.
The steps that must be taken to acquire full authentication can seem burdensome. However, if a checklist approach is taken, it becomes a matter of routine. The initial step is to obtain authentication of the notarized document from your state’s Secretary of State. This can be acquired in the same manner as if you are requesting an apostille. However, instead of an apostille, you are asking for a Certificate of Signature. The document is then forwarded to the U.S. Secretary of State for further authentication of the state secretary signature. Once this is obtained, it is time to check with the consulate of the country in which the document will be submitted. The steps needed at this point can vary widely. In any case, the document will be forwarded to the country’s consulate and/or embassy for final authentication. It is difficult to predict the time frame for completing this process. It may take quite a few weeks, or as little as a few days. Once again, this is dependent on the country in which you are filing.
In summary, legalizing documents is an unavoidable step when filing international patent and trademark applications.