Contrary to some rumors and what many would like, there is not an “International Patent” that gives worldwide protection. If someone is promising you an International Patent, make sure to ask better questions to see what they’re really selling. In fact, there are not even patents that cover multiple countries. Each country has its own patent system and enforcement of patent rights in that country requires patent registration in that country. There are, however, international patent applications that allow you to simplify the registration process in many countries at once, or maintain your pending status to file in many countries at a later date.
The first and what is generally considered an “international patent application” is called a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Application. This application can be filed in any language and allows an applicant to file a patent application in any of the PCT member countries for up to 30 months from the priority date for the application. The PCT Application itself is never issued as a patent by the PCT office, but allows the applicant to delay the decision of which countries the application will be filed in and the cost associated with that decision.
Another popular example of a multi-national patent application is found in the European Union. In the European Union a company or inventor can file one application in the European Patent Office that is examined on behalf of all of the European Union member countries at once. The application can be filed and examined in English, French or German. If the application is allowed, the owner can then choose which of the European Union countries the owner wants the patents granted in. The big upside to this approach is that there is only one examination process (and associated costs) with the application. The big downside, however, is that the owner needs to pay for a translation into the language of the country and pay for the registration fees in every country. There is a similar process for the other grouped countries that have this kind of international application. Nevertheless, there is still not yet one application that can count for the whole world.
choosing the right law firm overseas to help you obtain and enforce the patent can have big effects on the overall costs.