One of the challenges many inventors face is enforcing their patents outside the country where it was issued. This is exactly where securing an international patent can be a game-changer! After doing a deep dive into US patents vs international patents, I am going to share my findings, important information about each patent, and help you understand how they work. 

US Patents vs International Patents

The enforcement of a patent filed in and granted by the United States government is only valid within its borders. This is why, with a US patent, you can stop anyone from using or selling your invention within the United States. However, you cannot exert these rights outside the country.

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US patent law, governed by Title 35 of the United States Code (U.S.C.), sets patentability criteria, including novelty, non-obviousness, and utility. The USPTO examines patent applications to assess whether the invention meets these criteria and grants patents accordingly.

If you seek protection for your invention across multiple countries, you must file an international patent. First, however, you should understand the differences between US and international patents. You should also learn the different ways to file applications for both patents. Let’s start with US patents first.

What Are US Patents

The United States government issues US patents to protect novel and useful inventions within the United States. These patents grant the patent holder exclusive rights to make, use, sell, and import the invention within the United States. However, its protection does not extend beyond US borders. 

In the United States, patents are typically granted for a period of 20 years from the date of filing the patent application. During this time, the patent holder has the exclusive right to use the invention commercially. After the expiration of the patent term, the invention enters the public domain, allowing others free access to it.

US patents also provide legal consequences against infringers within the United States. If someone violates your patent rights by making, using, or selling your patented invention without your authorization, you can take legal action against them in US courts to enforce your rights.

How to File a US Patent Application 

The process of filing a U.S. patent application is pretty straightforward. However, it could seem complex, especially if you’re not working with a patent lawyer or have no experience filing patent applications. So, here’s a step-by-step process for filing one: 

Decide What Kind of Patent You Need

The United States Patent and Trademarks Office offers three kinds of patents:

You must determine which patent you need for your invention before progressing in the application process. 

Evaluate the Commercial Potential of Your Invention 

The patent application process is pretty expensive and time-consuming. Thus, you need to make sure the invention is worth the financial investment and the time it requires. Do this by conducting market research on the invention to determine its potential profitability.

Document Your Invention

Gather the necessary information and documentation related to your invention, including:

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Conduct a Patent Search

Conducting a patent search is important to confirm that your invention is novel and not already patented by someone else. You can search for prior art using online databases provided by the USPTO or hire a professional patent searcher. 

Draft the Application 

Drafting the patent application is the most important step of the process, and it requires attention to detail. You must describe your invention in clear and concise language, including its purpose, structure, how it works, and unique features. 

It is advisable to hire a patent attorney to help you write a legally sound application or to review the application if you wrote it yourself.

File the Application

Once your application is ready, you can file it with the USPTO. To file a patent application, you must pay the stipulated filing fees and submit other important documents. 

Application Prosecution 

After applying, a patent examiner at the USPTO will examine it to determine if your invention meets the patentability requirements. During this time, you may need to respond to office actions raised by the examiner, amend claims, or provide additional documentation to support your application. 

What Are International Patents?

The term “international patent” refers to patents that protect inventions in multiple countries. Unlike domestic patents that protect a single country, international patents extend across borders. However, there is no single international patent that will protect your invention globally.  

The only way to get patents in various countries is to utilize international arrangements designed to help inventors file applications across various countries.

How to File an International Patent

If you’re looking to file an international patent application, there are three different options available to you. They include:

Direct Application

A direct international patent application involves submitting separate patent applications to the patent offices of the respective countries where you are seeking patent protection. This process can be time-consuming, expensive, and quite challenging. Thus, it is only recommended for certain situations, such as when seeking patent protection in just a few countries. 

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Paris Convention

The Paris Convention allows you to file a patent application in a member country and later file applications in other member countries within 12 months of the initial application. 

The good thing about the Paris Convention application is that it allows you to claim the priority date of your first application as long as your subsequent application comes in within 12 months. This gives you more time to assess the commercial potential of your invention and decide which countries to pursue patent protection in.

Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)

Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, you can file a single international patent application, known as a PCT application. This application is valid in more than 155 contracting states of the PCT, meaning that you do not have to file different applications in different countries. 

However, the PCT does not automatically guarantee that you will get patent protection in every country you seek. It only offers a general application and examination process, thereby reducing administrative burdens, paperwork, and costs associated with filing separate applications in each country.

After submitting an international application, you would still need to pursue the grant of your patent in the patent offices of your chosen countries. Here’s a quick look at the PCT filing procedure: 

Similarities and Differences Between US Patents and International Patents 

As an inventor or business looking to protect your intellectual property, you need to understand the similarities and differences between US patents and international patents. This way, you know what to expect from each one and which option is right for your business.   

Similarities

Differences

Which Patent Is Better

To determine whether you should apply for a US patent or an international patent, you need to consider various factors, including: 

Typically, an international patent application takes a longer time and costs more than US patent applications. However, if there is potential demand for your invention in various countries, and not just the US, then it might be beneficial to go for an international patent.  

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Related Questions

What Is the Main Difference Between US Patents and International Patents?

The main difference between US and international patents is that US patents provide protection within the United States, while international patents provide protection in multiple countries. If you want protection for your invention in multiple countries, you will need to file patent applications in those countries either directly or through the PCT. 

Can I File a Single Patent Application to Protect my Invention Worldwide?

No, there isn’t a single patent application that can protect your invention worldwide. However, systems like the Patent Cooperation Treaty allow you to file a single international patent application to seek protection in multiple countries. 

What Are the Requirements for Obtaining an International Patent Under the PCT?

To obtain an international patent under the PCT, you must be a resident or citizen of a PCT contracting state. The application must also follow the required formatting rules of the PCT. Additionally, the application should be written in the official language of the national patent office in which you are filing. 

Conclusion

Ultimately, deciding between a US or an international patent depends on your circumstances and needs. A US patent may be enough if your primary market is within the United States and you have limited resources. However, if you have significant market potential outside the US, international patents could be more beneficial.