Overseas Protection

How to protect your invention in other countries

You need a separate patent for each country where you wish to protect your invention. So, for example, a UK patent can be used to stop people copying your invention in the UK, or importing it into the UK from elsewhere, but it can’t be used to stop a competitor making and selling your invention in another country.

You can file applications for overseas patents up to 12 months after you file a UK patent application for the same invention, and they still get the benefit of the initial UK filing date. So we usually advise a UK applicant to file here first and delay the cost of overseas applications until 12 months later.

You can use this 12 month period to review the commercial potential of the invention and perhaps to secure funding. We also recommend some patent searching during this period to get a better idea of whether the invention is patentable and the likely scope of protection.

Although patenting in a number of countries can be complex and costly, there are two systems which simplify the procedure and reduce (or at least delay) the costs involved.

European patents

The European patent system allows you to file a single patent application covering a large number of European countries. This application is searched and examined as a single entity, which saves time and money. Once granted, the European patent is converted into separate national patents in all the countries of interest.

PCT (international) patent applications

By using the “PCT” (Patent Co-operation Treaty) system, you can file a single patent application which effectively reserves your right to file applications in most of the major industrial countries of the world.

Eventually, about two and a half years from the date of your very first patent application, you convert your single PCT application into separate national patent applications in all the countries of interest. (This can include a European application.) Each of those applications is then searched and examined separately and will eventually result in a separate national patent.

The PCT system offers a cost effective means of keeping your options open in a large number of countries, for long enough to assess the commercial value of your invention and the likely success of your patent applications.

Our international focus

Our firm has a strong international focus. We work and lecture extensively in the US and Asia, in particular Japan, as well as Europe. This experience helps us to understand the specific requirements of each country and the vital cultural differences in intellectual property work around the world.

We regularly travel to the European Patent Office in support of our clients’ patent rights, and have an excellent success rate in oppositions and other contentious matters.

All our professional staff speak English as their first language, and we also speak French and German in-house to a professional translation standard. This means we can communicate our clients’ ideas to patent offices around the world with accuracy and precision.