About Patents

We read in the dictionary: a patent is a government grant to an inventor assuring him the sole right to make, use, and sell his invention for a limited period. It is impossible to find a general definition applicable to all the countries of the world as each country has a local Patent Act defining what a patent is. In any event, we can define a patent as a registration certificate for protecting technical inventions in all fields of technology. Patents give holders the right to prevent third parties from commercially exploiting their invention. In return, applicants must fully disclose their invention.

Procedural and substantive requirements for the grant of patents are different from one country/region to the other. The definition of what a patent is changes from country to country and this is the reason why your invention may be patented in one country and rejected in another one. There are several fields in which these differences are more noticeable. For example, software-related inventions are registrable in some countries and clearly rejected in others. Therefore, it is very important to check if your invention qualifies as a patentable invention in the country of your interest before starting the registration process.

Patents are territorial rights. That means that a patent registered in a country will give protection against infringements in this particular country. Someone may lawfully exploit your idea in a country in which you do not have patent protection and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. That is the reason why it is so important to define in which countries you need patent protection. Remember that there are no patents valid in all the countries of the world. You need to extend your patent rights on a country-by-country basis.

A priority date is the date on which the first patent application for your invention was filed with some patent office somewhere in the world. Every time you file a patent application in any country of the world “claiming priority” to your original application, the filing date in the foreign country will be the filing date of your original application. In accordance with the Paris Convention, you have one full year to extend your patent rights abroad, claiming priority to your original application.

Let me give you an example: If you file the first application for your invention in the US on October 1, 2012 and on March 1, 2013 you file a patent application in the UK “claiming priority” to your US case, the filing date in the UK will be October 1, 2012.

There are several agreements that help you out with extending your patent rights abroad. The most important one is called the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. This agreement provides that an applicant from one contracting State shall be able to use its first filing date as the effective filing date in another contracting State, provided that the applicant files another application within 12 months from the first filing date. Let me give you an example: If you file a first patent application for your invention on October 1, 2013 then you have one full year until October 1, 2014 to extend your patent rights abroad and the filing date in all those foreign countries will be October 1, 2013.

Another important agreement is the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Once a PCT application is filed, the applicant has 30/31 months for extending the patent rights abroad. That is, this treaty provides 18 more months for the applicants than the Paris Convention to file patent applications in foreign countries.

You will find more detailed information about the Paris Convention and the PCT in this FAQ section.

Nowadays, there is a very uniform concept around the world regarding the protection term granted to a patent. In most countries, patents are granted for 20 years from the filing date. In order to keep your registration alive, you have to pay “maintenance fees” usually called “annuities”. In some countries, these fees are due on the anniversary of the granting of the patent, in others, on the anniversary of the filing and in some others like in the US 3.5, 7.5 and 11 years from filing after granting.