You’ve come up with an amazing new idea, developed a plan, and applied for a U.S. patent to protect your intellectual property. Now you’re left wondering, is your patent effective internationally?
Are you protected from a developer in a foreign country using your patented invention without your permission? What about your copyright material or trademarked name?
When you have put as much heart and soul into an invention as you have, you need to understand the exact protections you have for your ideas. What’s your coverage, both within America and beyond the borders.
We’ve broken it all down to help you determine if your patent covers you overseas and how to secure foreign protection.
A copyright will protect your original works as they are expressed. This can cover written words, computer programs, and mobile applications, but it does not protect the ideas themselves.
This means that no one may copy your work’s exact format, but they can approach the idea with their own unique take on the subject matter. If someone develops a piece of work with similar ideas, it does not necessarily infringe on the copyright rules.
The U.S. Copyright Office currently maintains relationships with other country’s copyright offices. This means when you secure copyright protection with the U.S. Copyright Office, your works are protected both in the U.S. and within select foreign countries.
It is best to familiarize yourself with these specific countries that acknowledge and protect your works. Outside of these specified regions, many countries will not provide copyright protection to your work.
Trademark protection is specific to the unique branding of your product or business name. Companies may secure a product name or logo by registering their trademarks and employing a TM or SM symbol next to the name or logo.
Trademarks can be internationally recognized in up to 123 countries, but the applicant must first be filed in the U.S. trademark office.
Once a trademark is effective in the applicant’s country, the Madrid trademark system can be utilized. This system allows the applicant to file a single application for international coverage of a branded logo or product name.
By these rules, your product or business’s commercial establishment must be within a member country (such as the U.S.). After this, you can apply for coverage across all other member countries as well.
This allows you to prevent items with infringing marks from entering the U.S. market via international trade. When you register your U.S. trademarks with U.S. customs any flagged items will get turned around at the U.S. entry point.
A patent will protect your invention or discovery from being made, used, or sold by other companies. This will protect your ideas and can help prevent theft of your intellectual property. However, patents are territory specific and only cover the country in which they are filed.
This means that U.S. patents do not provide any protection in foreign countries since they are specific to America.
There is one patent application that functions as an “international application.” This application is called a PCT application (more on this below). However, each country has their own laws around patent protection and requires an individual application. Therefore, when a PCT application is granted, the applicant is still required to file and prosecute that patent application in any country they choose to file within. This helps applicants to adhere to the specific rules and requirements, which may vary from country to country. It’s important to note that even after a PCT is granted, a country’s patent office can still call your application’s patentability into question.
On top of this, most foreign countries have rules in place about how long the patent will be effective. Many foreign countries require an invention to be manufactured in the country within three years of the patent’s approval. If manufacturing doesn’t occur in the timeframe, the patent expires and no longer protects the invention or discovery.
Foreign countries may also have strict rules on publication. A publication made about the proposed invention before a patent application is filed could result in penalties. In these situations, the inventing individual or company typically has to give up the rights to the published version of their idea and would no longer be eligible for a patent of it.
Streamlining Foreign Coverage
The changes in rules and laws around patents in each country can make filing for protection difficult and time-consuming. For this reason, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) came into effect in 1978. This treaty streamlines the application process and allows for the filing of an invention in all member countries.
The U.S. is a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty, along with 148 other countries. The treaty utilizes a centralized filing process. This allows a U.S. applicant to file one application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for protection in any of the member countries that the applicant chooses.
The application process for a patent in the United States is quite complex and relies quite heavily on your patent specification and patent claims. Always ensure that your application is up to par with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office requirements. This is a vital step before embarking on the international patent journey.
Before You File
It’s important to familiarize yourself with both the U.S. patent laws and foreign rules and regulations. Failing to do so could result in mistakes that penalize your patent eligibility in both the states and abroad.
If you are applying for a foreign patent before a U.S. patent, by law, you must get a license from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before applying. Applying within America means you are requesting this license. To continue with a foreign application, you must either receive notification of approval or surpass a 6-month expiry period.
Take the time to research which foreign laws and licenses you may need before proceeding in each market.
Make Your Patent Effective Internationally
Now you know what your patent, copyright, or trademark covers and how far the protection reaches. It’s time to take the appropriate steps to secure international protection for your work, invention, or brand.
If you still need help with the utility patent application process, visit our learning center. Here you will discover everything you need to know to put together a successful patent application.
Don’t miss out on claiming your great ideas and making your patent effective internationally.