Federal Agency & Embassy Services FAQs

Welcome to Federal & Embassy Services FAQ page!

Here you can find the answers for many of your Frequently Asked Questions. The majority of these questions have come from people like you looking to learn more about the type of work they do. If you don’t find your answers here, email us for assistance and we will be sure to add it to the list.

Patents are property rights granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling an invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.

A trademark is a protection of words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce.

A trade name is a pseudonym used by companies to perform their business under a name that differs from the registered, legal name of the business. A trade name is filed at the Secretary of State.

A service mark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. The term “trademark” is often used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.

copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phono records of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.
The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine. Copyrights are issued by the Library of Congress.

An apostille comes from the French word for “certification”; commonly used to refer to the legalization of a document for use internationally under the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents.
In 1961 a group of countries came together and formed what is known as the Hague Convention for the specific purpose of abolishing the requirement to have documents legalized for foreign use.  The countries participating in The Hague agreed they would accept what is called an apostille from a Secretary of State showing the validity of a document.  For example, in the State of Delaware we can obtain a certified copy of a Certificate of Incorporation with apostille for use in Germany.  Germany will not require further legalization of the certified copy since it has an apostille and both countries (Germany and USA) are party to Convention 12.
For a list of countries participating in The Hague please visit www.hcch.net.

Authentication is a quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy or genuine; proving not false or imitation; real or true.

Authentication is necessary to ensure the information or documents to be used will serve in the best interest of justice and are not contrary to U.S. policy. Personal business documents which have been notarized must be taken to the local Secretary of State office for authentication before submitting the document to the United States Department of State (U.S. DOS) for authentication. The U.S. DOS has a specific “authentications” section established to receive documents executed in the U.S. for use in foreign countries. The state authenticated documents will be federally authenticated, upon submission.

  • Non-governmental issued document signed by person executing document and notarized.
  • Notary’s signature must be authenticated by state official (in some instances this requires notary’s signature be authenticated by county official and county. official’s signature authenticated by state official) federal agency documents must be certified by a federal official from the issuing agency.
  • Documents issued by Secretary of State or District of Columbia Department of Notary and Authentications must have appropriate seals, stamps and/or signatures.
  • Documents must be original; copies will not be accepted.
  • Affidavits can be used to provide a declaration as to authenticity of person or business document, in some cases.

Legalization is the act of making materials or documents enforceable, justifiable or lawful by judicial or legislative sanction. Legalization is considered the conclusion of the document review process before it may be used in the country for which it has been authenticated.

Documents requiring apostille/legalization include State generated documents, Powers of Attorney, Bylaws, Birth or Death Certificates, United States Patent & Trademark Documents, Good Standing Certificates or Certified Charter Documents, etc.

Documents issued and certified by a federal government agency may not be certified or authenticated by a state government agency. These documents must be taken to the U.S. DOS for authentication for the issuance of an apostille for documents to be used in a Hague country or authentication for documents being submitted to the embassy for legalization. Examples of federally certified documents include certified patent and trademark registration documents.

A Notary Public is a person appointed by the Secretary of State who is legally empowered to witness and certify the validity of a signature. Notarization doesn’t guarantee the truth or accuracy of a document nor is the notary public required to have knowledge regarding the contents of the document. As such notarization does not legalize or validate a document.

Some countries have consulate offices designed to handle local documents within a specific jurisdiction that may help with avoiding the need for U.S. DOS authentication. Consulate offices are typically located in major cities. If you are able to take your document to a local consulate, you would simply take it from the Secretary of State direct to the consulate.
A few countries “require” use of consulates within the jurisdiction of the document’s origin. Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Brazil and Saudi Arabia will not accept documents at the Embassy in DC, even if authenticated by the State Department, unless it is within the embassy’s jurisdiction.

An embassy is where official diplomats perform their duties and interact with their official counterparts in the host country.  There is only one embassy in a given country and it is located in the capital city.  Documents which have been authenticated by the U.S. DOS must then go to the Embassy of the country where they will be used. Many embassies are located in Washington, DC.  For a list of embassies located in DC please visit www.embassy.org/embassies. Each Embassy will have different requirements, procedures, fees and hours within which they will issue legalizations
Some embassies may require additional steps before the document will be accepted for legalization, such as a preliminary review of the document to ensure the content is acceptable and business to be conducted is approved.

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