International Patents

Filing your International Patent Application

Beginners guide to international patent filing

Once you have started down the patent route you will probably want to extend the reach of your patent to other countries. Most people consider patenting their idea in the countries most likely to buy their product.

This is likely to be the US, European countries, Australia, Japan and Canada. A Patent Agent or Attorney will be able to offer you more complete advice on this, but hopefully this section give provide some basic information.

Given the timescales and costs it is often easiest to file with the UK IPO initially and then extend your application out to other countries afterwards.

The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property gives you up to 12 months after the filing date of your initial patent application in your own country to file a corresponding application in a member country and still get all the benefits of the earlier filing date.

For example: you can file your patent application in the UK on the 15th March 2009 and then start promoting and marketing your new idea. You can than file your application in the US on the 14th March 2010 and still use the 15th March 2009 as your initial filing date for your patent application. If someone has filed a patent application for the same idea with the US patent office on the 16th March 2009 you still get priority. The fact that you have revealed your idea after your UK filing date still doesn't count as prior disclosure with the US Patent Office.

Each national application requires forms to be filed in, fees to be paid and examinations to be conducted. It would be very difficult for an individual with little experience to file and argue the patent application in other countries so your best bet is to use a local Patent Agent or Attorney. The safest route to do this is normally to instruct a UK patent attorney to work on your behalf with a trusted patent attorney partner in the other country. This is where patenting gets very expensive as you are effectively paying several patent attorneys and also translation costs. Generally speaking you should be prepared to budget around £1000 - £3000 to file an application in the UK using an attorney. Each English speaking country will cost around another £1500 and each non-English speaking country around an additional £3000. This is just for filing. Taking a foreign application through examination is likely to cost the same amount again.

There are other routes for trans-national filing, such as filing with the European Patent Office or with the World Intellectual Property Office. This can be a lot cheaper. Use the links below to find out more.

Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)

It is also possible to file a transnational or ‘international’ patent application under an international treaty. Such an application is called a PCT application and provides 18 months for filing nationally from the filing date. This can be utilised to extend the decision for national filings from your original filing date to around 30-31 months from the original filing date. But it will be costly, at around £5000 minimum.

European Patents
Going European with your patent application
Once you filed your initial patent application with the UK IPO you can choose, within 12 months, to extend your application out to cover the EU member states by filing with the European Patent Office (EPO). Here's how.
Worldwide Patents - the PCT
Introduction to the PCT - Patent Co-operation Treaty
If you wish to extend your patent to countries inside Europe and beyond, then the best way is likely to be an international application via the PCT. Read all about it here.
Patent Costs
A rough guide to the cost of patenting your idea
Patenting your idea in the UK yourself is quite cheap. However once you go international the fees can get huge. If you choose to use a patent attorney then that can also be very expensive. Here's a rough guide...

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