Before you file for an international patent, you should decide which geographical region you want the patent to cover. Different areas like the European Union have their own process for applying for an international patent.
When deciding which countries you want the patent to cover, you should think about where your invention will be most marketable. Doing the research of potential markets in different countries is essential, and you can do this yourself or get the help of a market research firm.
You should then research the process steps, timing and fees required by each of these countries. This research can be done in online law libraries where you can find a lot of information on the patent regulations of other countries.
The first step in the process for inventors in the United States is to apply with the US Patent Office for a foreign license, which is required by federal law. You should be sure to keep your invention under wraps until your application has been accepted by the international community, or you may be denied the patent request.
There are two alternatives available to file for an international patent. You can choose to file separate applications in the countries you are seeking coverage, or you can file a single application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) or the European Patent Convention. When you file under the European Patent Convention, you can designate the specific member countries you are targeting.
When the application is accepted, you will receive a national patent from each of the countries listed on the application. This option makes sense for those inventors who are filing in at least 3 or 4 different countries.
The PCT process begins with an international application filing and an International Search Report, and ends with a number of national/regional patents being granted. The international application and search report can be published as soon as 18 months from the priority date.