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International Patent Protection

International Patent Protection

If you are concerned about overseas use or infringement overseas or if you are interested in licensing your product in other countries, you must consider international patent protection.

In Western Europe, most countries are parties to the European Patent Convention (EPC) and you can stipulate those EPC countries for which you seek a patent. As a UK resident, you can file a European Patent application at the Intellectual Property Office in London. The application and grant procedure is similar to the UK domestic system. Filing on a world wide scale may be done through the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) which covers a large number of countries including the USA. For a UK resident, a single international application in English is made at the Intellectual Property Office in London designating those countries in which you seek patent protection. After an initial central search, each designated country will process the application locally as a national application.

It may be appropriate when considering international protection to make an initial UK application before going the EPC or PCT route. Obtaining a priority date in the UK means that the same priority date will apply in other countries if applications are made to those countries within 12 months of the priority date. The (cheaper) UK search will also provide an early assessment of the international patentability of your invention.

If you apply overseas without, or before, making an application to the UK Intellectual Property Office, it is necessary for National interest purposes to obtain the Intellectual Property Office's permission. This is not an area for 'do-it-yourself' and a patent agent should be consulted from the outset.

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