Foreign Patent Applications

Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2008 by Jim Ruttler.

Filing a U.S. patent application does not protect inventions abroad. Instead, if foreign patent protection is desired it is necessary to file a separate patent application in each foreign country of interest. Furthermore, it is necessary to these foreign patent applications within twelve months of the earliest filed patent application. For example, if a U.S. provisional patent application is filed on January 1, 2008 it is necessary to file all foreign patent applications before January 1, 2009. When there are a number of foreign countries of interest, a single international PCT patent application can be filed within the twelve month period. This PCT application only extends the time frame to enter foreign countries by around another eight to twenty months and does not actually mature into a patent application.

Inventors should also be aware that most foreign countries operate on a first to file basis and do not permit any disclosures of an invention prior to patent filing. This means that if there is a potential for later foreign filing, it is important to file U.S. applications early and prior to any disclosures. Provisional applications should also include at least one claim so that they can properly serve as the foundation for later foreign applications.

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