If you have an invention that will be sold and used around the world, you should strongly consider protecting your patent rights all around the globe.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as “one-stop shopping” when it comes to patent protection. You’ll have to file in each country, each with its own fees and procedures.
(Europe is in the slowwwwww process of creating a Europe-wide patent. After being discussed for more than 40 years, a unitary patent for Europe may finally be available in 2017… or not…)
The good news is that you can use the “International Patent Application.”
The International Patent Application is authorized by the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
The PCT has 151 contracting countries, including all of the ones in which you’re most likely to want patent protection.
Even though a single patent application can be used, the standards for granting patent rights vary from country to country.
For example, computer software is patentable in most of the world, but US courts have increasingly rejected software-related patent claims since the Supreme Court’s Alice decision.
In some places, genetically engineered living organisms (from plants to bacteria to mice) can be patented, but in other places they can’t.
In some countries, business method patents are allowed, and in other countries they aren’t.
In terms of process, you have a couple of choices:
- Use the International Patent Application, and draft “one-size-fits-all” claims that could be accepted in all relevant countries.
- Draft multiple applications for multiple countries, with each application customized for that country.
Using the PCT process is popular for several reasons:
- It’s cheaper to prepare a single application rather than an application in each country.
- An applicant has up to 30 months to decide which countries to actually seek a patent in.
This 30-month window gives the applicant the time to see how an invention is doing in the market, and thus whether and where it’s worthwhile to invest in patent protection.
On the other hand, if an inventor is already confident about which markets will be most relevant, it may be cheaper and faster to file only in those countries.
Seeking international patent protection is complicated, and coming up with a global patent strategy requires careful consideration of the various issues.