Understanding International Patent Protection

For innovators and businesses looking to safeguard their inventions, understanding international patent protection is crucial. This blog delves into why international patent protection is needed, who needs it, how it can help, and the strategic considerations involved, including costs and timelines

Why International Patent Protection?

The rise of globalization and online commerce has expanded the reach of products and services, necessitating the protection of intellectual property across multiple countries.

A product conceived in one country can be manufactured, used, and sold globally, increasing the risk of intellectual property infringement across different jurisdictions.

What is International Patent Protection?

In general, patents are territorial, wherein a patent registered in the United States does not provide rights outside of it.

Inventors must apply for patent protection in each country where they seek protection.International patent protection involves securing exclusive rights to an invention in multiple countries or jurisdictions through a single filing of protection to an International Intellectual Property grating and enforcement body. Through the protection of the international body, the patent holder can distribute and enforce the protected idea.

Typically, patents are territorial, wherein a patent registered in the United States does not provide rights outside of it.

Who Needs International Patent Protection?

Any business or inventor that plans to market or manufacture their inventions in more than a single jurisdiction should consider international patent protection. This protection is vital for businesses that face potential competition in global markets, where competitors might exploit unprotected inventions through the manufacture of copies, or the sale of copies in a market without any fear of legal action against these instances of infringement. 

How Can International Patent Protection Help?

Securing patents internationally helps businesses maintain a competitive edge by preventing others from copying or selling their invention in those countries. It also provides a legal basis to take action against infringement.

Furthermore, patents can enhance a company’s valuation, attract investment, and open opportunities for licensing and partnerships abroad.

Understanding the Costs

International patent filing involves significant expenses, including:

  • Filing fees for each country
  • Translation costs for non-English-speaking countries
  • Legal fees for local patent attorneys
  • Maintenance fees to keep the patent active

The cost can range from $5,000 to $20,000 per country over the life of the patent, depending on the country and the complexity of the patent application.

The Timeline

The timeline for securing a patent varies by country but typically involves several years. Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), applicants can delay deciding in which specific countries to seek protection for up to 30 months from the earliest filing date, providing time to assess the invention’s commercial potential before committing to higher costs.

When it comes to securing your innovations on a global scale, understanding the different routes available for international patent protection is crucial. Each pathway offers distinct advantages and is suited to different strategic needs.

Here’s a detailed look at the primary mechanisms through which inventors can protect their intellectual property across various jurisdictions:

1. The Paris Convention Route

The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property is an international agreement that offers a union for the protection of industrial property. It includes patents, trademarks, industrial designs, utility models, service marks, trade names, and geographical indications among others.

Key Features:

  1. Priority Filing: Inventors can file separate applications in any of the convention’s 177 member countries within 12 months of the initial filing in their home country. This system allows the subsequent filings to be treated as if they were filed on the same day as the initial filing.
  2. Independent Processing: Each application filed under the Paris Convention is treated independently within each country’s legal framework, meaning patents must meet the specific legal standards of each country where protection is sought.

This route is particularly advantageous for inventors who are clear about the specific countries in which they want to protect their invention and are ready to manage multiple, simultaneous national filings within a year of the first filing.

2. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Route

The Patent Cooperation Treaty, administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), streamlines the process of filing patents in multiple jurisdictions by allowing inventors to file a single international patent application that has the effect of a national patent application in any of the treaty’s 157 member countries.

Key Features:

  1. International Phase: After filing, the application undergoes an international search where an international searching authority identifies published documents that might affect the novelty and inventiveness of the invention claimed in the application. This is followed by a preliminary and non-binding opinion on the patentability of the invention.
  2. National Phase: Within 30 months from the earliest claimed filing date, the application must enter the national phase in each country where protection is sought. During this phase, each national or regional patent office involved will begin its own examination process according to its laws.

The PCT route is beneficial for inventors who need more time to decide in which countries to seek patent protection, allowing for a longer strategic assessment period. It also helps in deferring some of the costs associated with multiple direct national filings.

Both the Paris Convention and the Patent Cooperation Treaty offer valuable pathways for securing international patent protection, each catering to the different strategic needs of inventors and businesses.

Whether prioritizing speed and specific markets with the Paris Convention or seeking a broader, more flexible approach with the PCT, understanding these routes is fundamental in developing an effective global IP strategy.

Collaborating with experienced IP professionals can provide further guidance tailored to the specific needs and objectives of your business or innovation.

3.The Hague System

The Hague System, managed by WIPO, offers a streamlined process for acquiring design protection in various countries or regions simultaneously. This system enables filing a single international application, in one language, and with a single set of fees. Importantly, there is no requirement to first file a national or regional design application to utilize the Hague System.

4. The Madrid Protocol

The Madrid Protocol provides a streamlined method for trademark owners to register and manage their trademarks in over 120 countries through a single application and payment process. This international treaty simplifies the global trademark registration process, making it more efficient and cost-effective.

Things to Remember Before Going International

  1. Evaluate your market: File patents in countries where you anticipate market entry, manufacturing, or potential infringement.
  2. Keep track of deadlines: International patent processes are bound by strict deadlines that vary by country.
  3. Understand local laws: Patent laws differ significantly between countries, and local legal nuances can impact your patent strategy.


Navigating international patent protection requires careful planning and consideration of each market’s strategic importance to your business. Legal Advantage offers expertise in managing international patent filings, helping to simplify this complex process.

With the right strategy, international patents can protect your innovations, support your business’s growth, and enhance your competitive position in the global market.

By engaging experts at Legal Advantage, you can ensure that your intellectual assets are protected around the world, allowing your business to thrive on a global scale.