EU market research and regulations

Your checklist

Know your target EU markets

There's a wealth of information available to research opportunities for your company in EU markets:

  • Get easy access to EU market profiles via the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 
  • Connect with Scottish Development International and DIT regional offices in EU markets for in-market knowledge and advice on how to enter and develop each export market
  • View EU export opportunities on the Exporting is GREAT website
  • Contact Scotland Europa, based in Brussels, who can provide information and advice on European market opportunities
  • Visit the EU Scottish Funding Portal which offers a free resource for organisations for transnational project opportunities in Europe

Generally, you can find information on any regulatory, customs or licence requirements you need to have in place for EU markets, on the public sector sites such as the European Commission site or the GOV.UK website.

These sites will take you step by step through what you need to know, and have in place, for each EU market.

Also, get valuable advice and information from the trade bodies for your sector. They will often have specific information on the regulations and any licence issues for each EU market.

Customs, regulations and protecting your intellectual property

The EU is a Customs Union and as such no customs duties are paid on goods or services moving between EU markets. 

Most product and service sectors come under “harmonised rules” which set out common rules and regulations for goods and services across EU markets, including the UK. 

However, there are areas you need to consider. Be clear how you protect your intellectual property (IP) in EU markets, and any specific packaging or labelling requirements for EU markets. 

Some products and services also come under national rules and regulations. Or may require a specific export licence for export if they are restricted goods. Check the regulations for the product or service you intend to sell to the EU.

Protecting your IP

In EU markets, as with other international markets, you need to ensure you adequately protect your IP – whether it's your trademark or registered designs, or any patents you have in place.

Intellectual property (IP) rights are territorial and only give protection in the countries where they are granted or registered. But you are normally able to register for protection of your IP across all EU markets if you wish.

Trade mark protection

To apply for trade mark protection in EU countries, you can apply for a European Union Trade Mark (EUTM) online through EUIPO, the European Union Intellectual Property Office in Spain.

Design protection

Similarly, if you want design protection in countries which are members of the EU, you can apply for a Registered Community Design (RCD) through EUIPO also.

Patent protection

To protect any UK patents you have in place across EU markets, you should use a patent attorney, and apply through the European Patent Convention.

Or if you only wish to protect your patent in certain EU markets, then consult the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the UK as to how to register through each individual country IPO. 

We also advise you to seek out independent legal advice.

Packaging and labelling requirements

In terms of packaging and labelling for EU markets, you should consider:

  • Does the product information need to be laid out or formatted differently? 
  • Do you need to translate information on-pack into different languages? 
  • Does any additional information need to be included on the product labelling? 
  • Will the name of your product, colours and packaging design appeal to your target audience in the EU markets that you have identified? 
  • If your product(s) make any claims based on standards that are accredited in the UK, will these be accepted by regulators in other EU markets? 
  • Are the size of your packaging and the materials used acceptable to the relevant authorities in the EU? 

The EU doesn’t require country of origin labelling. But many manufacturers include country of origin labels to differentiate their product in the market. 

You should also ensure you capture the key product information normally required under the UK Consumer Protection Act in terms of:

  • Quantity or size of product 
  • Composition of product 
  • Method of manufacture of product 
  • Place and date of manufacture of product 
  • Fitness for stated purpose 

The EUR-Lex website provides details on the different EU regulations for products to assist companies in terms of any specific packaging or labelling requirements for their products.

Export licences

Export licences are not generally required to dispatch goods from the UK to EU markets, however there are some exceptions:

  • There are restrictions on the movements of certain goods such as chemicals and military and paramilitary goods, which will need a licence, permit or certificate
  • There may also be licensing or certification requirements that apply to food or agricultural produce dispatched within the EU
  • If your business includes trade in certain services, you must make sure specific information is available to your customers about how you work before you enter into or complete contracts or make agreements
  • Special rules also apply to companies supplying communications and media services
  • All military controlled items and some highly sensitive dual-use goods will need a licence for EU markets
  • Dual-use goods are controlled depending on their technical specifications or performance and, in general, you only need a licence to export outside the EU, however there are exceptions –these items are listed in Annex IV of the EU Dual-Use List (part of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists)

When you export to another EU market, your commercial documentation needs to clearly state whether the items are controlled if the goods will be ultimately exported outside the EU.

Relevant commercial documents include the sales contract, order confirmation, invoice or dispatch note. 

Read more on strategic export controls on the Export Control Organisation website

Rules for service providers

Specific VAT and taxation rules apply to selling services (intangibles) to the EU. These online resources will provide more detail on the subject:

Rules for service providers to EU markets on the Europa.eu website

Check out this beginner's guide to export controls on the GOV.UK website

Get the right support and advice

We can offer free initial advice to help your company identify, manage and exploit your IP assets in EU markets. 

Ask our intellectual assets specialists

Discuss your technical and general market research needs for the EU with one of our export advisers or your Scottish Enterprise/SDI account manager (if you have one).

If you've explored these resources but still need answers, then get in touch, we'll be happy to help out.

Contact us

Got any questions about EU opportunities or expanding in new markets? Our export advisers are here to help.

Disclaimer

All information provided on this web page is for general guidance only. The contents of this guide have been provided by our training partners, Upper Quartile. Upper Quartile is not affiliated with any of the third parties or listings represented on our website. Third party listings are drawn from public domain and industry body data sources. Due diligence on a given third party or listing remains the exclusive responsibility of the end user. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the details represented, Upper Quartile and Scottish Enterprise cannot endorse, recommend or accept responsibility for any transactions conducted between the user and a given third party or listing provided on this web page.