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The protection of intellectual property in worldwide or in foreign markets has been a great concern for many inventors and corporations for years. Intellectual property rights gives owners of ideas, inventions, and creative expression the right to exclude others from access to or use of their property for a certain period of time. Filing in the U.S. is still the first choice among most businesses; however filing abroad is important for those selling goods and services outside the U.S. It is important for the inventor to know that these federal protections extend only throughout the United States and offer little or no protection in other countries. In fact, despite filing efforts within the U.S studies show that nearly 10 percent of medicines and thirty-nine percent of software being used around the world are counterfeit. This is just one example of the dangers of not filing patent rights in other countries.

To secure full patent rights in another country, I strongly urge inventors to file patent in that country. There have been a number of organizations developed by the U.S. government to strengthen protections. Such organizations include: NIPLECC (National Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordination Counsel) and (STOP) Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy Internationally, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The process of filing a patent, trademark or copyright application in other countries is very similar to that in the U.S. Usually contacting a foreign attorney or law firm directly is unnecessary. Rather, it is important to find a U.S. based firm with an existing arrangement in the country.

How do I file a Patent Abroad?

Once a patent is filed, the owner is generally given protection for a period of 20 years from the date of the filing. There is the PCT or Patent Cooperation Treaty which assists the process for U.S. inventors and businesses wishing to obtain patent protection in other countries. Once the patent is filed in the USPTO office, those applicants can seek protection in up to 115 countries. The WIPO offers a Patent Corporation Treaty (PCT) application, which simplifies the application process and allows one application to be filed for patent protection in multiple countries. Patent fees and requirements differ significantly by country, so it is advisable to consult a registered patent attorney who is familiar with the intellectual property laws of the specific countries where a patent is sought.

To seek worldwide protection, the PCT allows the inventor file an “international” patent application. This application can be filed with the national patent office of the Contracting State of which the applicant is a national or resident or, at the applicant’s option, with the International Bureau of WIPO in Geneva. Certain parties which are part of this include the European Patent Convention, the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs (Harare Protocol), the revised Bangui Agreement Relating to the Creation of an African Intellectual Property Organization or the Eurasian Patent Convention, the international application may also be filed with the European Patent Office (EPO), the African Regional Industrial Property Organization (ARIPO), the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) or the Eurasian Patent Office (EAPO), respectively.

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