Where to File

This is one of the most common questions we receive every day from our clients. If you filed a PCT International Stage application and the 30/31 months deadline is fast approaching, you need to decide to which countries you will extend your rights.

After 25 years of experience filing patents around the world, we concluded there is no answer that can fit every situation. Every case is different and you need to make a deep analysis before taking that decision. Why? Because once the deadline has passed, you cannot file a patent application later on. Therefore, this is an opportunity you have to use responsibly. Remember: in all those countries in which you do not have patent protection, your invention will be considered “public domain” and anybody can validly manufacture and sell your product in this country without paying you a cent.

The purpose of this article is to give you some hints you may use to take the best decision for your invention.

Dreams are just dreams. Right? We all know that. In any event, it is always a good start to know ideally what all those countries are to which you can extend your patent rights. At present, there are 148 member countries of the PCT agreement but there are around 240 countries in the world. Therefore, even though the PCT is usually called the “International” patent, not all jurisdictions are included. In any case, you will find below that most of the important countries of the world are part of the PCT agreement. They are:

  • Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan;
  • Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso;
  • Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic;
  • Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic,
  • Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia;
  • Finland, France;
  • Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau; Honduras, Hungary;
  • Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Iran, Israel, Italy;
  • Japan;
  • Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan;
  • Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg;
  • Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique;
  • Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway;
  • Oman;
  • Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal;
  • Qatar;
  • Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda;
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe,
  • Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic;
  • Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan;
  • Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates (UAE), United Kingdom, United States of America, Uzbekistan;
  • Viet Nam;
  • Zambia, Zimbabwe.

There are two possible situations: your invention may be a modification or improvement of an already known product or a completely new product. In the first case, you have the opportunity to check in what countries the size of the market justifies the filing of a patent application. There are several tools online to estimate the sales volume for a product like yours.

Instead, if you are creating a completely new product and there is of course no market for it, you will need to use another tool to take this decision.

Sometimes it is good to know what the leaders are doing. We can take a look at some useful statistics produced by WIPO. In accordance with the 2013 PCT yearly review on the international patent system, the top 15 countries that receive the most PCT National Stage entries are:

  1. United states
  2. Japan
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Switzerland
  7. Netherlands
  8. South Korea
  9. China
  10. Sweden
  11. Italy
  12. Canada
  13. Australia
  14. Denmark
  15. Belgium

If you are interested in filing in middle-income countries, this is the list of the 10 top PCT National Stage entries for the top 10 middle-income countries:

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Brazil
  4. South Africa
  5. Russian Federation
  6. Turkey
  7. Mexico
  8. Malaysia
  9. Chile
  10. Colombia

Filing a patent application abroad implies that you are planning to export your product. Looking for a foreign market is not always an easy task. There are several barriers to cross: language, currency, habits, taxes, physical distance, etc. Sometimes your neighboring countries are markets which are more accessible. If you live in the States, it is probably a better idea to file a patent application in Canada than in China. It is much more probable for you to start sales in Canada than in China. Therefore, if your neighbors are just like you, put them first on the list!

Remember: the filing costs are just the beginning of your patenting costs, and never the end. Make a realistic list of countries based on the future expenses you are going to face during the prosecution of your applications. There are several strategies to keep the prosecution costs as low as possible, but you have to estimate how much money you are going to pay during the next 2-5 years for examination fees, issue fees, maintenance fees, etc. Once your patent is granted, most countries require the payment of a maintenance fee you have to pay for keeping your registration alive.

Inventia will always warn you in advance about the future costs of your application and we will never send you an invoice for something you have not authorized first.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the market value of all the goods and services produced by a country. It is a very useful tool to measure how rich a country is. Another important index is the GDP per capita that is the GDP divided by the population of the country.

Why are these indexes important? Because not all the inventions are intended to be sold in rich countries. If your idea is related to a construction system for low-income families, then you need to know what countries need a technology like that. Sometimes you need to know what the richest countries of the world are. Sometimes the market is precisely the opposite, and the poorest countries are where you need to patent your product or service. Here you have the whole list calculated by the World Bank in 2012:

1) European Union
2) United States
3) China
4) Japan
5) Germany
6) France
7) United Kingdom
8) Brazil
9) Russia
10) Italy
11) India
12) Canada
13) Australia
14) Spain
15) Mexico
16) South Korea
17) Indonesia
18) Turkey
19) Netherlands
20) Switzerland
21) Saudi Arabia
22) Sweden
23) Iran
24) Norway
25) Poland
26) Belgium
27) Argentina
28) Austria
29) South Africa
30) Venezuela
31) Colombia
32) Thailand
33) United Arab Emirates
34) Denmark
35) Malaysia
36) Singapore
37) Chile
38) Nigeria
39) Egypt
40) Philippines
41) Finland
42) Greece
43) Israel
44) Pakistan
45) Portugal
46) Ireland
47) Iraq
48) Algeria
49) Kazakhstan
50) Peru
51) Czech Republic
52) Kuwait
53) Ukraine
54) Qatar
55) Romania
56) Vietnam
57) New Zealand
58) Hungary
59) Bangladesh
60) Angola
61) Morocco
62) Slovakia
63) Ecuador
64) Syria
65) Oman
66) Azerbaijan
67) Belarus
68) Libya
69) Sri Lanka
70) Dominican Republic
71) Cuba
72) Sudan
73) Luxembourg
74) Croatia
75) Uzbekistan
76) Bulgaria
77) Guatemala
78) Uruguay
79) Tunisia
80) Slovenia
81) Costa Rica
82) Ethiopia
83) Lebanon
84) Lithuania
85) Ghana
86) Serbia
87) Kenya
88) Panama
89) Yemen
90) Turkmenistan
91) Jordan
92) Latvia
93) Tanzania
94) Bolivia
95) Paraguay
96) Cameroon
97) Côte d'Ivoire
98) Trinidad and Tobago
99) El Salvador
100) Cyprus
101) Bahrein
102) Estonia
103) Zambia
104) Uganda
105) Nepal
106) Gabon
107) Afghanistan
108) Honduras
109) Congo
110) Equatorial Guinea
111) Bosnia and Herzegovina
112) Brunei
113) Georgia
114) Papua New Guinea
115) Jamaica
116) Mozambique
117) Botswana
118) Senegal
119) Cambodia
120) Congo, Republic of the
121) Iceland
122) Albania
123) Namibia
124) Chad
125) Zimbabwe
126) Nicaragua
127) Mauritius
128) Burkina Faso
129) Mali
130) Mongolia
131) Madagascar
132) Armenia
133) Macedonia
134) South Sudan
135) Laos
136) Malta
137) Bahamas, The
138) Haiti
139) Benin
140) Moldova
141) Rwanda
142) Tajikistan
143) Guinea
144) Niger
145) Kyrgyzstan
146) Kosovo
147) Monaco
148) Liechtenstein
149) Suriname
150) Malawi
151) Montenegro

There are several ways to save money in filing patents around the world. One of the most popular ones is to file regional applications. A regional application means a patent system that covers several countries in one single application. There are several regional patent systems in the world, including: the European Patent Office, the Eurasian Patent Organization, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), and the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI). You can file one single application that “covers” several countries. These regional agreements will save you thousands of dollars, as it is cheaper to file a regional application than to file one application in each country of the region.

These are the countries covered by each agreement:

  1. European Patent Office (EPO): Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, the United Kingdom, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Monaco, Macedonia, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, San Marino, Turkey.
  2. Eurasian Patent Organization (EAPO): Turkmenistan, the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Tajikistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Azerbaijan Republic, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Moldova.
  3. Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI): Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo Brazzaville, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
  4. African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO): Botswana, the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Every case is different. There are no general rules applicable to determine in which countries you should protect your idea. Here we will give you some hints that you can use to take your decision, but we are always open to hear your case. One of our experts will be more than pleased to give you some advice free-of-cost on where and why to file. It is an important decision you really need to consider carefully.