Can you file a single patent application for all countries?
Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a single patent to cover all countries? Is there such a thing as a worldwide utility patent? Not exactly. To procure foreign utility patents, however, you can file one international patent application that gives you patent-pending status in most countries. It’s called a PCT application.
Notice I said “patent-pending” and not patented. What a PCT does not give you, however, is a granted international utility patent. A PCT application simply starts the process that can lead to foreign utility patents. Eventually, you will still need to file individual patent applications in your desired foreign countries.
Can you obtain a worldwide utility patent?
Patent rights are geographical in nature. Every country or region will have their own intellectual property office that grants or rejects patent rights that lie within their own borders. For example, a China patent is not enforceable in the US. Likewise, a US patent is not enforceable in China.
In theory, the idea of a worldwide utility patent seems technically feasible. Prior art is worldwide in nature. For example, a Japanese prior art patent can be used to reject a US patent application. The USPTO does not need to ask the Japan Patent Office for permission to use Japanese prior art, and vice versa. Any preexisting publicly available document located anywhere in the world can be used to reject any patent application filed in any country. So if prior art anywhere in the world can be used to reject a patent application in any country, why can’t we have a worldwide utility patent?
At the moment, a worldwide utility patent does not exist. In view of this reality, you can still take advantage of an international patent application process that can lead to granted patents.
Why bother filing a PCT if it does not give you a worldwide patent?
So why bother filing a PCT application if it cannot give you a worldwide utility patent? The answer is straightforward: to buy more time. A PCT patent application extends the foreign filing deadline by an additional 18 months. Instead of 12 months from the priority date, a PCT application gives you 30 months to file in foreign countries.
A lot can happen in a year and a half. You can use these additional 18 months to:
- monetize your invention;
- seek funding;
- secure deals with international business partners;
- determine your odds of obtaining foreign patents by getting a sneak peek at relevant prior art that will likely be used to reject your claims.
At the 30-month national phase deadline, you will need to come up with the cash to pay for the individual national stage applications to be filed in your desired foreign countries.
Need to file a single patent application for multiple countries?
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