Living in a global economy means that certain laws must stretch across nations, including intellectual property laws. An inventor who wants his or her invention protected in foreign countries has the option of filing for a patent in each country in which protection is sought or can file an international patent application. The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, for example, governs almost all international reciprocal patent filing rights. Parties to the Paris Convention also have an option to join the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which allows inventors to file an international patent application effectively providing inventors with simultaneous patent protection in participating countries.
This article provides information about what the Paris Convention provides to contracting countries as well as an overview of the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
What Does the Paris Convention Provide?
The Paris Convention was signed in Paris, France, on March 20, 1883 and is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). There are over 170 countries who are contracting parties to the Paris Convention. The Paris Convention doesn't only apply to patents; it also includes protection for trademarks, trade names, and services marks. Basically, the Paris Convention establishes a right of priority, which means that an applicant can use his or her first filing date as an effective filing date in other contracting countries. One of the requirements to this right of priority is that the subsequent filings must occur within a year from the first filing. The countries that are contracting parties to the Paris Convention also have the opportunity to join the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which allows contracting parties to file international patent applications.
What Is the Patent Cooperation Treaty?
The PCT provides a standard application format and centralizes the filing procedures for patents, which makes filing for patent protection in multiple countries easier. Nationals and residents of countries that are a party to the PCT are eligible to file for this type of application. An applicant has the option to file an international application with the International Bureau of WIPO in Geneva or in the national patent office of the applicant's residency or nationality. For example, a resident or citizen of the United States can file the application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The PCT not only provides advantages to inventors seeking international patent protection, but also benefits patent offices and the general public. For example, patent offices can reduce or even eliminate the work involved in searching and examining a patent application because of the international search report and written opinion. The published international search report also puts third parties in a better position to decide whether or not an invention can be patented. The PCT procedures also provide more time to decide whether or not to seek patent protection in foreign countries and to take the steps that are necessary to seek foreign patent protection.
Getting Legal Help
Even though filing for a patent doesn't require attorney representation, a patent application must include detailed and specific information, so having experience filing such applications is helpful for ensuring that the application is complete and correct. Providing incomplete or incorrect information can lead to limited coverage of your patent or rejection of your application. If you have questions about the Paris Convention, or would like some help to determine if your invention or discovery qualifies for patent protection, you may want to contact a local patents attorney for guidance.
For more information and resources related to this topic, you can visit FindLaw's section on Patents.