Can I get patent protection in foreign countries?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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A United States patent protects inventions in this country only. If a person wishes to obtain protection in a another country, they may have to file in that country.

License Requirement

Generally, a license from the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks is required to file for a patent in another country within six months of filing in the United States. However, certain protections may be lost in the process, so it is advisable to discuss the details with a professional. Many foreign countries make all patent applications public upon filing, which may have some negative impacts in the United States.

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The Patent Cooperation Treaty

Under treaties with most foreign countries, if an American has filed a patent application in the U.S., it’s possible to delay filing the application for a foreign patent for up to one year after the U.S. filing and still claim “priority” in the foreign country.

Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, many countries have actually combined and streamlined their processes. In Europe, for instance, a single application is submited to the European Patent Office, is processed and individual applications are sent out to all requested countries with each country’s individual requirements.

Work-Share Programs

The U.S. currently has two pilot work-share programs including the “New Route” and the “Triway.” The New Route allows a filer’s application to be accepted by both the United States Patent Office and the Japan Patent Office simultaneously, allowing protection in both countries. The Triway goes one step further and adds the European Patent Office to the application process as well. These programs are only in their test phase at this point, but may be worth taking advantage of.

Challenges to Copyrighting in Other Countries

One of the greatest hurdles for people seeking foreign patents will be the language, culture, and legal barriers.

This is where a patent attorney comes into play. Typically, the way that most inventors handle their foreign patenting needs is by hiring a patent attorney in the U.S. and then that patent attorney has established connections with another attorney in the country where you are seeking a patent. It’s this hurdle, and the attorney’s fees that stem from it, that typically limit most private inventors to only one or two foreign countries for patents.

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