Foreign Patent Protection

What is the Absolute Novelty Bar?

If you have publicly disclosed your invention prior to filing a patent application, then you will be barred from patenting that invention in most foreign countries. This rule,  known as the absolute novelty bar, requires that you avoid public disclosures of your invention prior to filing a patent application if you want to apply for foreign patents.

Is it necessary to apply in each foreign country prior to any public disclosures?

No. To keep your foreign filing options open, you simply need to file a patent application in a single country (e.g., US) prior to disclosing your invention to the public. This will secure patent pending status and a patent filing date, known as the priority date if the filing is your first patent application for this invention. You must then timely file your foreign applications within a certain time period and link those foreign applications to your priority application by including an appropriate priority claim.

U.S. Patent Protection

Is there a grace period filing US patent applications?

Yes, a 1-year grace period applies for US patent filings. This means that inventors have up to one year from their earliest date of public disclosure of their invention to file a US patent application.

For example, if you publicly disclosed your product or concept for the first time at a trade show, you can still file a US patent application within 12 months of that earliest public disclosure.

What if it’s too late to claim priority to a published foreign application?

Applicants who wish to file US patent applications related to their foreign applications may do so within certain time periods (i.e., 12 months for utility filings and 6 months for design filings). If there was an unintentional delay, an additional 2-month grace period may apply.

What if an applicant has already blown past the above deadlines as well as the 2-month grace period? Can the applicant still file a US application for the same invention covered in the previously filed foreign application(s)? The answer depends upon the publication date of the applicant’s prior foreign filings.

Keep in mind that inventors have a 1-year grace period to apply for US patents. Therefore, if the publication date of the applicant’s own foreign patent filing is less than a year old, the applicant may still file a US patent application. Without a priority claim to the foreign application, however, such an applicant may potentially face more prior art which can be cited against the US application.

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Vic Lin

Vic Lin

Startup Patent Attorney | IP Chair at Innovation Capital Law Group
We love working with startups and small businesses. I help entrepreneurs protect their intellectual property so they can reach their business goals.