eu Patents international patents

How to Protect Your Invention in Several Countries

It’s important to understand the complexities of EU patent protection. Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), you can apply for patents in other countries, but there is no such thing as a single international patent.

To get international patent coverage, you must nationalize your application and seek patent protection in each individual country. This involves adhering to each country’s specific legal requirements and processes.

International Patent Application Process

The European Patent Office (EPO) is an international organization that facilitates patent protection through a centralized process. With one single EPO patent application, you can distribute and validate it in every country you want coverage.

Steps to Apply for an International Patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides everything you need to apply for EPO patents. But only an IP attorney can guide you through the essential steps spelled out below to safeguard your invention on a global scale.

Step One: Initial Filing

Submit a single EU patent application to the EPO. You must submit your application within one year of your U.S. filing. You can also file a PCT application to delay your application dates and give you more time to apply in multiple countries. One of our attorneys can work with you to ensure the application meets all USPTO and EPO requirements. 

Step Two: Examination

The EPO examines the application for compliance with general patentability requirements in Europe. This involves an extensive patent search by the International Search Authority (ISA). The EPO will publish the application and search report 18 months after the filing date.

Step Three: Patent Granted

If approved, the EPO grants an EU patent. In total, the grant procedure can take up to five years, so it’s important to file as soon as possible. Our skilled IP attorneys know the necessary deadlines and can speed up the process by navigating the complex validation process in each desired country, ensuring comprehensive protection.

Step Four: Validation

EU patent validation is required in every country. This involves submitting a translation of the patent claims in the local language and paying a fee, which must be paid within three months after the grant publication. You must also establish a local address for service.

Step Five: Pay Maintenance Fees

Every EU patent comes with annual fees which patent holders must pay to maintain their claims in validated countries. It usually costs around €600, but costs can vary by country and patent type.

wipo patent application process
World Intellectual Property Organization International Patent Timeline

Patent Cooperation Treaty Explained

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is an international agreement that streamlines the patent application process in multiple countries. Under the treaty, U.S. inventors can file a single patent application, which can later be validated in PCT member countries. 

For a complete list of member nations: PCT Patent Countries

The treaty also provides more time to decide where you might want to seek patent protection. You can start validating your EPO patent in other countries 30 months after your file date. However, inventors must comply with each country’s specific patent laws to secure protection in those jurisdictions.

U.S. Patents vs. European Patents

Is an EU patent better than a U.S. patent? When should you apply for an EU patent? Depending on your invention and the type of patent you’re pursuing, there are some benefits to seeking international protection, especially if you have a market abroad.

To sum it up, the Patent Cooperation Treaty:

  • Allows inventors to file a single international patent application that simultaneously provides provisional protection in over 150 participating countries
  • Gives inventors up to 30 months to choose which member countries to validate their provisional patents

You should NOT consider EU patents if your market is primarily American or if you’re just starting the patent application process. 

The EPO prefers technical patent documents to be advanced, with thorough prior art and patent searches already done locally. Filing fees are expensive and won’t be worth it if you’re still in the beginning stages. If you’re unsure, it’s best to pursue a U.S. patent first. You can always apply for an EU patent later.

International Patents: Frequently Asked Questions

Do U.S. patents apply in the EU and abroad?

No, a U.S. patent or trademark does not extend outside the borders of the United States. Start a foreign filing application with an IP attorney to get international patent protection.

What countries does an EU patent cover?

Through the PCT, inventors have access to over 150 countries, including Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, Spain, Greece, and Hungary. You can get a complete list at EPO.org.

What cannot be patented in the EU?

Patent laws prevent inventors from protecting calculation methods, natural scientific theories, and some aesthetic designs. You can pursue other types of protections, such as trademarks or design rights.

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