How to Patent Your Idea Internationally

Rich Goldstein

Founder & Principal Patent Attorney
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Dreaming of safeguarding your groundbreaking idea worldwide? Navigating international patenting alone can be daunting and perplexing. Knowing how challenging it can be, we’ve outlined how to patent your idea internationally, guiding you through the global patent process.

How to Patent Your Idea Internationally

If you have a product you wish to patent worldwide, you have a few options. When seeking patent protection, you can choose between:

  • National/regional patents 
  • International patents 
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An international patent is often referred to as a PCT application. This provides a streamlined process to simultaneously pursue protection in multiple countries. 

National patents, on the other hand, are filed individually in each country where you seek protection, tailoring your approach to local requirements and regulations. 

There are three main methods of filing an international patent:

  1. A Direct application
  2. A Convention application
  3. A PCT application

Direct Overseas Patent Applications

Visiting a patent office and applying directly is the most straightforward and logical way of applying for an international patent. 

When filing a direct overseas patent application, you need to prepare country-specific documents. These can include claims and specifications, which need to be submitted with the required fees to the patent office of the target country.

Pros and Cons of Direct Overseas Patent Applications 

Each method of applying for international patents has its benefits and drawbacks. This includes Direct Overseas patent applications. 

Pros:

  • Customized strategy: Applicants can tailor their approach in specific foreign countries based on factors such as market potential, legal requirements, and business goals
  • Potentially faster process: You can streamline the steps, reducing delays and expediting the filing of patents in foreign countries
  • Long-term cost efficiency: The cost of the patent application depends on various factors, including the number of countries targeted, the complexity of the invention, and overall budget

Cons:

  • Higher initial costs: Filing patent applications directly in multiple countries tends to result in higher initial costs compared to filing a single international application (PCT)
  • Loss of backdating: Filing directly in individual countries might result in losing the original priority date. In some cases, this may impact the novelty and non-obviousness of the invention

Convention Patent Applications 

A Convention patent filing lets you maintain the original application’s date while applying for patents in different convention countries, ensuring your patent registration across borders. This type of application is applicable in countries that belong to the Paris Convention.

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Within 12 months of the initial filing, separate patent applications can be filed in other Convention countries. The main advantage of this method is that there is a 12-month window to evaluate and choose the countries for application.

Pros and Cons of Convention Patent Applications

There are potential pros and cons of convention patent applications.

Pros:

  • Priority date preservation: By filing a convention patent application, you can secure an early priority date based on a previously filed application in another member country.
  • Extended timeframe for foreign filings: Allows applicants to defer the decision on which foreign countries to seek patent protection in.
  • Cost efficiency – As it postpones the need to file separate applications in multiple countries. Convention applications can be more affordable.

Cons:

  • Additional filing costs: Applicants will need to prepare and file separate applications in each country, building costs.

PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) Patent Applications 

If you wish to acquire an international patent, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) currently allows inventors to seek protection for their inventions in various countries under a single “international” patent.  In 2021 alone, around 277,500 international patent applications were filed under WIPO’s PTO, a slight increase from 2020 (approximately 275,900).  

Covering over 150 contracting states, the PCT allows individuals or businesses to file one patent application instead of numerous separate regional or national patent applications. Nevertheless, national and regional patent offices ultimately decide whether a patent is approved. This is known as the “national phase.” 

During this phase, the applicant selects the countries where they wish to pursue patent protection. In the USA, it involves submitting the required documentation and fees to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to continue the patent examination process within the national jurisdiction.

Pros and Cons of PCT Patent Applications

While PCT applications can typically be filed within a year of the first filing date, there are pros and cons attached to these applications.

Pros:

  • Extended decision time: Applicants can decide which countries to file for up to 30 to 31 months from the initial application
Close up of a globe map

Cons:

  • Higher initial fees: PCT applications can be more expensive due to the administrative costs associated with processing applications across multiple countries and conducting international searches and examinations
  • Jurisdiction verification: Verifying jurisdictional requirements for certain countries in PCT applications can be extremely complex and time-consuming

Patent Research

As with any patent application, you must research and prepare beforehand. This includes:

  • Determining the type of intellectual property protection required: We recommend using the USPTO IP Identifier to learn more about protecting your invention
  • Finding out if your invention is patentable: Some inventions are not eligible for patenting, so you must determine if yours is before starting a patent application
  • Discovering if your patent has been used by other parties: You should contact the nearest Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC). Here, search experts, such as a patent attorney or agent, can help find the right search strategy.
  • Assessing what type of patent is needed: With the help of a patent expert, determine whether your idea requires a utility patent (nonprovisional), a design patent (nonprovisional), or a plant patent (nonprovisional)

Related Questions

How Much Does It Cost to Patent an Idea Worldwide?

How much it costs to patent ideas worldwide may cost upwards of $1 million for filing and issuance, plus $1 million for maintenance. Filing fees vary across different jurisdictions, too. 

Can You Patent Something Internationally? 

Currently, the only way to patent something internationally with a single application is via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) discussed above. However, because patents have a regional scope, a separate application can be made in all countries of interest. 

The PCT, however, provides a filing date in multiple countries simultaneously, resulting in the most streamlined route for acquiring patent protection worldwide.

How Long Do You Have to Enter the National Phase After Filing an International Application?

While this can vary, you usually have about 30 months to enter the national phase after filing an international patent application. Meeting specific deadlines to secure patent rights in chosen countries is very important.

Conclusion 

Obtaining an international patent can be achieved through various methods. However, going through the PCT is the only way to get an international patent with a single application. The avenue an inventor takes comes down to how they wish to expand their business worldwide and then carefully assessing options to safeguard their innovation effectively.

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