International Patents

What is International Patent Law?

As advances in technology and communications have caused the world to become smaller, inventors may need to consider ways to protect their intellectual property in countries other than the native country of the inventor. Every country establishes its own patent laws. Some countries have different laws establishing what can be patented and the patent protection available. For this reason, only a patent office in a particular country may issue a patent which provides legal rights according to the patent laws of that country.

European patents are an exception to this rule. The European patent office administers patent applications and patents for 38 countries.

When seeking international patent protection, an inventor may consider directly filing a patent application with the office or offices of particular countries in which patent protection is desired. These applications will be examined by the country's patent office to determine if the patent application meets the requirements of that country for patentability. Many countries recognize the filing of a patent application in a foreign country within one year before the domestic application, as establishing a filing date which may be earlier than the filing date of the domestic patent application. This is an advantage because the earlier date determines what constitutes prior art which may be used by the patent office to refuse issuance of a patent if it is determined that the prior art discloses what the inventor seeks to patent.

While there is not universally accepted international patent "law", the Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT, enables an inventor to file a single patent application, which is international in scope and serves as an entry point to any member country's national patent office. Member countries are those countries which have ratified the PCT. As of 2014, the PCT includes 148 member countries.

For a PCT application, one set of application papers, including a specification, claims and an abstract is prepared and filed at the national patent office of a member country, called a receiving office. The receiving office will review the application for technical problems related to the filling and issue a report of findings related to patentability. This report is not binding on any other offices.

When the international review of the application is complete, the application may be entered into the national office of one or more designated member countries. Entering the national office is known as entering the "National Phase". At this point, the applicant must pay national phase fees for each country in which protection is sought. These fees may include translations of the application into languages required by the national office. As the international may eventually enter a number of national patent offices, the international application should be drafted with a wide view toward the requirements of each receiving office.

Call us. Howard IP Law Group, P.C. can help you protect your inventions abroad. We can work through the facts and questions with you and point out pitfalls, saving you time, money and headaches. Together we can craft an approach tailored to your situation and plans.

Please note that the content of this page should only be used as a general reference, and is not a substitute for legal advice. It is recommended that you seek the assistance of legal counsel.

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