The Patent Cooperation Treaty establishes a method of filing one international patent application.

When a U.S. business or entrepreneur invents a new object or process, it is an important business decision to consider whether to obtain a patent for the invention. In this time of the globalization of commercial and scientific progress, not only should the inventor consider applying for a U.S. patent, but also for patents in other countries.

What is a patent?

Put simply, a patent is the government grant of the right to exclusive use, production or sale of an invention for a limited time (usually 20 years from filing in the U.S.). U.S. patents are of three types: utility, design and plant. Domestic patents are granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, called the USPTO, and must be new, useful and nonobvious.

Owning a patent is obviously advantageous because during the life of the patent, the owner has the exclusive right to make, use or market the invention, or to enter into licensing agreements that sell or grant those rights to others.

Seek qualified, knowledgeable legal patent counsel

Both domestic and international patent application processes are complicated legally and procedurally, so it is wise to consult with an experienced patent attorney as early as possible in the evolution of the invention in question. Especially helpful is an intellectual property law firm with personnel who have both legal and scientific backgrounds like Fort Worth, Texas-based Eldredge Law Firm.

International patent treaty

U.S. inventors seeking patent protection in other countries will likely use the international procedure established by an international agreement to which the U.S. is a signatory, along with 147 other countries: the Patent Cooperation Treaty or PCT.

The PCT is administered by a United Nations agency, the World Intellectual Property Organization, known as WIPO, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. On its website, WIPO provides detailed, helpful information about the PCT and the system set up to carry out the terms of the treaty.

WIPO has established an intricate, well organized system for the filing and administration of international patent applications. In the U.S., PCT applications can be filed with the USPTO, a PCT receiving office.

A WIPO-affiliated international authority conducts an international search for prior art (previous similar inventions) and drafts an optional report analyzing the patentability of the object of the application. Additional supplementary reports are available upon request.

These international findings help the applicant to evaluate whether to continue on with the international patent effort as well as to determine in which countries or regions patenting of the invention makes sense. All international searches and reports are available to each of the national patent offices designated by the applicant for help later when deciding whether to grant the invention a national patent.

The applicant in some cases may also need to have the application translated into the local language for consideration by a particular country's patent authority.

Anyone considering how to protect an invention nationally and internationally should seek the advice and assistance of an experienced patent lawyer.

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