If you think your patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office fully protects you from infringement, think again. Unfortunately, your U.S. patent only protects you in the United States and its territories; it does not protect you in other countries. As StopFakes.gov explains, you must obtain a patent in every country in which you intend to market, distribute, sell and/or lease your invention and therefore need patent protection for it.
Each country has its own patent laws, but thanks to the Patent Cooperation Treaty, wending your way through this morass of international laws becomes much easier. This 1970 treaty represents an agreement between the U.S. and 124 other countries that they will work together to expedite and simplify your patent application process. These countries have implemented both a centralized filing procedure and a standardized format for applications.
Despite this expedited international patent application procedure, however, some countries have additional patent requirements to which you must adhere. For instance, you may need to do the following:
- Get your patent before you “publish” your invention in that country.
- Manufacture your invention in that country for at least three years after receiving your patent.
- Pay ongoing maintenance fees in order to keep your patent in that country.
You will also have to apply for your various patents within de facto statute of limitation time frames. You must first file for your U.S. patent. Then you must apply for patents in whichever treaty countries you wish within 12 months of your U.S. filing date. Finally, you must apply for patents in whichever non-treaty countries you wish within an additional 18 months from your U.S. filing date.