After developing a new invention, filing for a patent protects your idea from theft. This is a great system for smaller inventors or inventors only preoccupied with local protection. For those seeking an international market, the process becomes far more complicated. If you file for a patent in the United States, its effect only extends to the US. If you desire international protection, however, there are still some options available to you. The process is complicated, but this short guide will introduce you to the basics of international patent law.
Getting Patent Protection
It is important that you realize that each country handles their patents individually. Additionally, each country has unique patent laws and regulations. It is not feasible to file a patent in every country to get worldwide protection, especially since some smaller countries have minimal patent systems. You should identify which countries you would like to be patented in and research their requirements, laws, and regulations. In order to receive patent protection, you will have to file with each country individually, keeping the laws between countries organized in your mind. Remember that there are usually fees associated with registering, so the more countries you file with, the more it will cost.
The Patent Cooperation Treaty
There is an alternative to filing with each country individually. The Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT, has been in effect since 1970, but was modified as recently as 2001. With this treaty, it is possible to file one application and receive patent protection in as many nations that were present at the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1983. If you are seeking international protection, you should review which countries are part of this agreement and decide if taking this route will offer the patents that you desire. It may be possible to file with the PCT and simultaneously with a few individual countries that are not included.
To file an international patent application, you must either file with the International Bureau of WIPO in Geneva, or travel to the national patent office of your country of residence, assuming you live within a country taking part in the PCT.
Understanding International Patent Law
Remember that filing with the PCT does not unify patent laws. Each country, despite being part of the treaty, still has unique patent laws that you must follow. It is your responsibility to be informed of each nation’s laws. Some countries require your invention to be manufactured within the country or the patent will be voided out. Additionally, many countries require maintenance fees to keep the patent over longer periods of time. The United States actually has rather lenient patent laws in comparison to other nations. While you can file a patent at any time in the US as long as a patent does not already exist, most other countries will not grant a patent if the invention is already published before applying. That is why it is vital for you to understand the laws before you begin the filing process.
Finally, you must also understand how the laws of your own country interact with the laws of the PCT. For example, if you live in the United States, a license from the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office is required if you file with the PCT before or at most six months after filing with the United States.
Because having a firm grasp on the international and local patent laws is so vital to receiving international patent protection, it may be wise to seek out consultation with a patent attorney just to ensure you are not missing anything. Remember that a national patent also protects you from infringing on products manufactured in other countries and imported, so you should only file with foreign countries where you plan to manufacture and sell your invention.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.