What You Need to Know About International Patents

International patents let you control the rights to your invention around the world. The World Intellectual Property Organization is the body that grants and oversees international patents. If you’re interested in an international patent, here’s what you need to know about the international patent process.

Do You Need an International Patent?

Before you start the international patent process, it’s important to consider your needs and goals. International patents only cover 151 countries, so if you’re planning on selling primarily outside of those places, you’ll have to file directly with the country where you intend to sell. Also be aware that the cost can be high, so if you’re not going to be ready for business abroad in the near future, it might be worthwhile to wait before initiating the international patent process.
If you’re already an international business you certainly will need patent protection, and filing for an international patent will mean you don’t have to file multiple patents individually, buying you time to decide where exactly you want to file. If you have not yet moved your business global, but wish to soon, the international patent process means you’ll be protected.

Common Mistakes

Don’t make one of these mistakes when you initiate your international patent process.
  1. Failing to get a patent attorney. When it comes to the international patent process, patent attorneys aren’t just a luxury: they’re a necessity unless you have your own dedicated office to deal with just this issue. Patent lawyers understand where you’re coming from, what you need, why you should get protection, how to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible, and have a wealth of expertise to advise you on every step both before and after you start the international patent process. If you want patent protection internationally, don’t forget your patent lawyer.

  2. Forgetting to File at Home. Another mistake is assuming that an international patent is the only thing you need. If you’re planning on doing any business in the United States, you’ll need to file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office first. This will also make it easier to start the international patent process.

  3. Making assumptions about other countries and their laws. Don’t assume that your patent is covered across the entire world once you’ve completed the international patent process. There is no one patent that can cover you everywhere, so file at home first, then internationally, and then specifically where you want to do business. Also, never assume that patent law is the same wherever you are. Every country has its own laws, and these may help or hurt you depending on your goals and your invention. This is why you need an expert in patent law to help you.

  4. Filing too late and missing deadlines. If you want an international patent, you have to start the international patent process within 12 months of starting the process with the USPTO. Other countries have their own schedules, too, so check everything, everywhere, and then check again. Get a patent lawyer to make sure you don’t make any mistakes. And don’t forget that in some countries publicly exposing your invention means you can no longer file a patent at all.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

In some places and some situations, you’ll need a foreign filing license. This is something your attorney can tell you more about. The cost for filing an international patent is around $4,000, while individual national fees can run between $2,000 and $7,000. Some countries will also demand maintenance fees, which you must pay or your patent will become void and you will be required to license your patent to anyone who wants to use it. Patent enforcement is strongest in the United States, Korea, Japan, Western Europe, and Canada. It is weakest in China, India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa.

Starting an international patent process is arduous, but the rewards are worth it when the invention is right. Make sure you have a good patent attorney on your side and learn how to protect your inventions and intellectual property.