There is no doubt that international property ownership laws can be complex, so it should come as no surprise that international patent law can be a difficult field to navigate. Since filing for and being granted a utility, design or plant patent in the United States only gives you legal protection in that country, many inventors and discoverers take an extra step and file for international patent protection. Whether or not you will want to go this route is dependent on the nature and claims of your patentable object or idea, the scope of its use and your intention in patenting it. Regardless of whether you have already decided to apply for a patent overseas or you are just being introduced to the idea, it is best to be aware of what you are getting yourself into. Here are all the factors that you may want to consider when delving into the world of international patent law.
Patents and International Law: What You Need to Know
Just as filing for a patent in the United States only gives you legal rights within the United States, filing for a patent in most foreign countries will only grant you legal protection in that specific country. Rather than going through the difficult process of applying for patent rights in each individual country, however, inventors may take advantage of the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
Through the governance of the Patent Cooperation Treaty, countries that are party to this agreement must accept and acknowledge internationally approved patents. Countries that were involved in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property agreement of 1883 are eligible to become part of this treaty. Inventors or discoverers who wish to patent their objects internationally may apply to the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization as an alternative to filing country by country applications.
The benefits and conveniences of this treaty are many. Rather than dealing with the different laws of invention in each country, inventors can file one simple form and acquire a patent in multiple countries and continents. Since some foreign countries maintain laws concerning the mandatory manufacture of patented articles in their country within a specific time frame, avoiding these stipulations by filing through the International Bureau can be helpful.
The treaty includes a number of guidelines that govern the way that each country’s government must deal with your patent application. Additionally, if you file your international patent application through the treaty within one year of filing for a United States patent, you will be eligible for other advantages. Therefore, those who are interested in filing overseas patents in any or all of the countries that are party to the Patent Cooperation Treaty should consider doing so through this standardized, efficient process.
What Else Should I Consider?
There are a number of other factors to take into account when looking into international patent processing.
- In some cases, a special license is required from the United States before you file a patent in a foreign country. This circumstance will apply if the filing of the foreign patent application will take place before the filing of the United States application, or if the filing of the foreign application will take place within six months or less of the United States application.
- This license or permission is also necessary in the event that the inventor wants the details or existence of the patent to be kept confidential.
- If you are seeking a patent in a country that is not part of the Patent Cooperation Treaty, then you must be sure to carefully familiarize yourself with the particular laws and property regulations of that country.
Finally, it is important that all of your patent paperwork, whether domestic or international, be carefully copied and documented for your records. This may be important in case there is a discrepancy or legal issue that arises between countries.
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