How Do I Protect My Invention in Foreign Countries?
This is a common question, and the answer is that there is not a “world patent.” Generally speaking, you need to file a patent application in each country where you want patent protection. There are some regional patents that exist, such as through the European Patent Office. But nonetheless, multiple foreign patent applications will need to be filed if you want to establish foreign patent protection in particular foreign markets.
Foreign patent applications can claim priority to a U.S. patent application if the foreign patent applications are filed within one year of the U.S. application’s filing date. In this scenario, the U.S. application could be either a provisional patent application or a nonprovisional utility application.
Filing a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) patent application is also a common approach for preserving foreign filing rights and delaying the expense associated with foreign patents.
Just like a U.S. patent application, each foreign patent application will need to be examined by a patent examiner in each country. There are now workshare agreements between some of the foreign patent offices and the USPTO called the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) which can usually speed up the process and lower cost.
You should also be aware that many foreign countries require an annual fee payment (referred to as an annuity) simply to keep the patent application (or patent) valid and pending.
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