Is My U.S. Patent Good in Other Countries?U.S. Patents in Other Countries
Patents are territorial and must be filed in each country where protection is sought.
Since the rights granted by a U.S. patent extend only throughout the territory of the United States and have no effect in a foreign country, an inventor who wishes patent protection in other countries must apply for a patent in each of the other countries or in regional patent offices. Almost every country has its own patent law, and a person desiring a patent in a particular country must make an application for patent in that country, in accordance with the requirements of that country.
The laws of many countries differ in various respects from the patent law of the United States. In most foreign countries, publication of the invention before the date of the application will bar the right to a patent. In most foreign countries maintenance fees are required. Most foreign countries require that the patented invention must be manufactured in that country after a certain period, usually three years. If there is no manufacture within this period, the patent may be void in some countries, although in most countries the patent may be subject to the grant of compulsory licenses to any person who may apply for a license.
The Patent Cooperation Treaty was negotiated at a diplomatic conference in Washington, D.C., in June of 1970. The treaty came into force on January 24, 1978, and is presently (as of December 14, 2004) adhered to by over 124 countries, including the United States. The treaty facilitates the filing of applications for patent on the same invention in member countries by providing, among other things, for centralized filing procedures and a standardized application format. The timely filing of an international application affords applicants an international filing date in each country which is designated in the international application and provides (1) a search of the invention and (2) a later time period within which the national applications for patent must be filed. A number of patent attorneys specialize in obtaining patents in foreign countries. If you file for protection under the treaty within one year of filing in the United States, you will have up to 30 months from the original U.S. filing date to file in any of the other signatory countries.
Under U.S. law it is necessary, in the case of inventions made in the United States, to obtain a license from the Director of the USPTO before applying for a patent in a foreign country. Such a license is required if the foreign application is to be filed before an application is filed in the United States or before the expiration of six months from the filing of an application in the United States unless a filing receipt with a license grant issued earlier. The filing of an application for patent constitutes the request for a license and the granting or denial of such request is indicated in the filing receipt mailed to each applicant. After six months from the U.S. filing, a license is not required unless the invention has been ordered to be kept secret. If the invention has been ordered to be kept secret, the consent to the filing abroad must be obtained from the Director of the USPTO during the period the order of secrecy is in effect.
More Information on Obtaining an Overseas Patent
For more information on how to apply for individual patents in a foreign country, contact the intellectual property office in that country directly. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) maintains a list of contact information for most intellectual property offices worldwide.
The U.S. is a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) which streamlines the process for U.S. inventors and businesses to file for patents in multiple countries. By filing one patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), U.S. applicants can concurrently seek protection in up to 148 countries as of April, 2014. The IP Attaché program works to improve intellectual property systems internationally for the benefit of U.S. stakeholders. IP Attachés are posted at U.S. missions around the world to address intellectual property issues arising in their assigned regions. Find an Attaché in your region.
View USPTO's Introduction to the Patent Cooperation Treaty Webinar.