Can You File a Patent in Multiple Countries? - An Expert's Guide

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) allows inventors to patent their invention in multiple countries with a single international patent application. This treaty covers around 150 countries, and by filing an international patent application, an inventor can apply for protection in all of them simultaneously. However, it is important to note that patents are country-specific and are limited to the borders of the issuing country. Therefore, to apply for the protection of an invention outside the United States, a foreign filing strategy must be implemented.

When deciding where to file foreign patent applications, there are many factors to consider. These include the potential market and manufacturing centers of the invention, as well as the protective capacity and enforceability of the invention under the country's intellectual property laws. Unfortunately, obtaining protection of a foreign patent can be quite expensive, depending on the size and complexity of the application, the need for translations, and the country or countries in which the applicant decides to submit the application. In order to apply for patent protection outside the United States, there is a 12-month deadline available to apply for priority until the filing date in the US.

There are three possible filing strategies: filing an application directly abroad, filing an application directly at regional patent offices such as the European Patent Office, or filing an international application under the PCT. While PCT applications are considered international patent applications and are often referred to as such, there is currently no international patent. It should be understood that a PCT application can only be used as a springboard for filing patent applications at a national or regional stage in a limited number of countries or regions. A full list of countries that can be reached through a PCT request can be found online. In the case of regional patent applications and PCT applications, the applicant must still obtain a registration in each individual country to obtain enforceable patent rights; however, regional and PCT applications can save translation costs and give the applicant more time to determine in which countries they will ultimately apply for patent rights.

Specifically, a PCT application delays at least 18 months from the submission of the PCT application, the costs and decisions to submit the PCT application at the national stage. Often, the number of countries in which an applicant wants protection will help determine if a PCT request will be more cost-effective than other avenues. Since each country has its own rules on the patentability of inventions, PCT patent applications must be carefully drafted to allow different jurisdictions from which patent protection can be applied for to use application terms that are fully supported by the description presented originally. Like the United States, many countries also have different forms of patent protection and application procedures that can be used depending on the importance of the invention and other commercial and legal considerations. Whatever strategy is adopted for foreign patents protection, early planning is critical for success. This may include translation fees for your application, filing fees of national (or regional) offices, and fees for hiring services of local patent agents or lawyers. International PCT requests are published online in PATENTSCOPE - a powerful searchable database with flexible multilingual interfaces and translation tools to help users and public understand content of published requests.

In most cases you have up to 18 additional months from time you file your international patent application (or normally 30 months from filing date of initial patent application you claim priority) before you have to start national phase proceedings with individual patent offices and comply with national requirements. The high quality of search is guaranteed by standards prescribed in PCT for documentation consulted and by uniform staff and search methods of International Searching Authority (ISA), all experienced patent offices. The report contains indications for each document listed as to their possible relevance to critical issues of patentability related to novelty and inventive step (not obvious). However receiving offices are required to accept applications in at least one language which is both language accepted by ISA competent to carry out international search (see question 1) and “publication language” - one of languages in which international patent applications are published (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish).

However it's important to note that you don't have to wait 30 months from earliest filing date of your patent application (“priority date”) before entering national phase; you can always apply for early entry into national phase. The effect of claiming priority of previous patent application is that patent will not be invalidated by any act performed during interval such as another filing, publication or sale of invention. A favorable international search report - one in which documents (state of art) cited do not seem prevent granting of a patent - helps you continue processing your application in countries where you want obtain protection. This can occur when in ISA's view international application contains multiple inventions but applicant has not paid additional search fees cover work required search those additional inventions.

In general patent applicants who want protect their invention in more than one country usually first file national or regional patent application with their national or regional patent office and within 12 months from date filing that first application (deadline set out in Paris Convention) file....

Mitchell Michniak
Mitchell Michniak

Hipster-friendly coffeeaholic. Total coffee junkie. Subtly charming pop culture specialist. Internet scholar. Certified tv aficionado.

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