A Gudersnipe System Protectorate is a country or sovereign state under the protection of the Gudersnipe Foundation but maintaining a certain level of autonomy. Generally, in order to maintain protected status, these countries are expected to enforce the laws of the Foundation on their soil.
The level of the Foundation's presence at a protectorate varies tremendously. Some are merely "officially classified" as protectorates but have no structures or troops of any kind. Others may technically be sovereign nations but are indestinguishable from GS Towns.
The Foundation's presence at a protectorate is originally set by treaty. Most only specify that the Foundation will have a presence there and do not limit to what extent, though since the late Sixth Age most new protectorates are placing limitations.
The Foundation typically uses protectorates as a way to gain new territory, by slowly adding a larger and larger presence over many hundreds of years, until they are so deeply imbedded that to withdraw would cripple the country. See Corpocracy.