A patent grants patent owners exclusive rights over their inventions for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention. Obtaining a patent will prevent others from making or selling what you invented, but a United States patent won’t protect your inventions internationally. Read on below to learn about patent protection in the US, and how the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application system can help protect your intellectual property internationally.
How Patent Protection Works
In the United States, the process to obtain a patent begins by filing a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The following are the three types of patents issued by the patent and trademark office:
- Utility patents are the most common patents. They protect inventions of new and useful processes, machines, compositions of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof.
- Design patents protect new, original, and ornamental designs either embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture
- Plant patents protect new and distinct plants, whether invented or discovered.
The application process is different for each category of patents, so make sure to speak with a patent lawyer to determine what your best option is. Generally, US Patents are valid for 20 years from the filing date. This means that during the term of your patent, you can sue anyone who makes, sells, uses, or imports your invention in the US.
How to Protect Your Patent Internationally
While a US patent will prevent anyone from manufacturing, using, importing, or selling your invention in the US, that protection doesn’t extend to other countries.
Every country has a different system of patent law, which is why there is no single international patent application you can file to protect your invention everywhere. However, there are treaties and certain mechanisms that make the patent application process easier for inventors who want to secure protection internationally.
Applying for a patent is much easier with the help of a registered patent attorney. An experienced patent lawyer will know all about patent law, including in foreign countries, and will make sure that you comply with all requirements.
Patent Cooperation Treaty
The United States is one of the 156 countries that are signatories to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The PCT established a unified patent application filing procedure, with two main phases: the international phase and the national phase.
The international phase begins when you file a PCT application. You may either file the PCT application directly, or file it within one year of filing an initial patent application in any other country. After filing a PCT application, an international prior art search is conducted by an international search authority. The application is then published with the search report and written opinion.
The national phase begins after publication, when the applicant files documents with the patent offices in the designated countries where it is seeking protection.
There are two main benefits to the PCT application procedure:
- You file a single application and receive the priority date of that application in member countries
- The international search procedure provides comprehensive results that can guide your intellectual property strategy
- National processing is deferred
Hire a Patent Attorney
Seeking international intellectual property protection can be costly and time-consuming. It is important to do it right the first time, and avoid additional costs or worse, lose your ability to protect your intellectual property.
At War IP Law PLLC, our experienced patent attorneys can help you obtain your intellectual property rights and protect your inventions from infringement. Call us and take control of your intellectual property today!