Did you know that filing a patent in one country does not protect your idea from being used by someone else in another country? This is because patents are based on location or territory, and every country has different patent laws. If you file a patent in the United States, it will only apply in the United States and its use is only protected in that territory.
The problem is that we live and work in a global economy. Doing business abroad has become a norm, including selling goods across the internet and working with suppliers and producers in other countries. This makes it critical for staying competitive to know how to protect your ideas and inventions from your home country as well as abroad.
What can you do to protect your intellectual property?
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your intellectual property when doing business across multiple continents and countries. You can complete an international patent application through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
Some important factors to consider for your application
- Where do you foresee doing business? When naming countries in your application, think about the places you are likely to do business. The process can stretch out over many months, so you will want to be inclusive when completing your application.
- How long will the filing process take? The timing of your application and approvals is critical for moving your business forward. After you file for a patent in your home country, you will only have up to 12 months to apply to the PCT for an international patent. You may also file your international patent application directly with WIPO.
- What is the process for searching for competing patents? Once you have filed your application, the International Search Authority (ISA) will do a search for any competing patents. They are required to complete this search process within 18 months of your filing date, based on your earliest filing for the patent in question. Then, a supplemental search may be done for another 12 months to determine patentability, within which you can select the countries you want to include in your international application. All in all, the filing process from start to finish can take up to 30 months.
The territories included in the PCT
As of the writing of this blog, the PCT includes 152 participating countries on all continents, including most but not all European, South American and African countries.
An IP attorney with global experience can assist you in seeking multi-country patents and protect your interests at home and abroad.