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How Long Does it Take to Get a Patent Overseas?

Protecting your intellectual property is a critical part of doing business. When patents form an integral part of your operation, protecting the ideas and technologies involved is crucial. Obtaining Australian patents is a relatively straightforward process that allows you to protect your ideas on Australian shores. However, protecting your idea internationally can be more challenging. While most countries provide legal frameworks for issuing patents, there’s no simple way to obtain protection across the globe. In this article we’ll discuss the ins and outs of international patents and how long the approval process takes.

Is There an International Patent?

There is no such thing as an “international patent”. Rather, individual countries recognise the importance of protecting intellectual property and offer their own patent systems. That means you can obtain patents overseas, but you’ll need to apply for protection in each country individually. Obtaining patents in multiple countries is often time consuming, costly and complicated. Each country has its own set of regulations, so each patent application needs to be prepared and filed individually.

The good news is that the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) allows inventors to lodge an “international patent application” that is valid in more than 150 countries. This is a cost-effective method of obtaining patents for those who want to protect their IP in many countries.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Granted Patent Overseas?

It varies, but it commonly takes at least 4 and 7 years to be granted a patent overseas. Because each country assesses applications individually, it can take years for international jurisdictions to complete their examination processes. While this process can take years, your rights do date back to your original filing date (your priority date). For Australian inventors seeking international protection, this period also includes the 12 months of protection offered by an Australian provisional application.

A provisional patent application is an efficient and affordable way to establish a priority date for your invention and support a PCT application. Once you’ve made your PCT application, your rights are secured internationally. However, only once your application has entered the “national phase” will your invention be examined on a national level, and it can take 3 years or more for each country to complete grant your patent. The process may take even longer if there are objections to your application, such as from a competitor.

The International Patent Process

While there’s no such thing as an international patent, you can use your Australian patent application to support a PCT application, or to apply directly to overseas patent offices. The simplest way to obtain international patent protection is to consult your patent attorney and ask for their advice. They will usually recommend a simple two-step process:

  1. Apply for a provisional patent in Australia. Provisional patents are an affordable way of establishing a priority date for your invention. A provisional patent application gives you up to 12 months to decide whether you want to proceed with full patent applications in Australia and overseas.
  2. File further national and international patents. Once your provisional application is filed, you have 12 months to file patent applications in each country where protection is being sought. Alternatively, you can make an international patent application through the PCT.

The difference between a PCT application and applying directly to overseas patent offices often comes down to cost. If you’re only seeking protection in a small number of countries, it may be more cost-effective to apply directly to those jurisdictions. If you’re unsure where you want to apply, or if you’re seeking protection in many countries, a PCT application will be the more appropriate pathway.

Protecting Your Inventions with the Patent Cooperation Treaty

Filing an internal patent application through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is often the most cost-effective way of obtaining protection in foreign countries. The PCT process is broken down into two phases:

  1. International Phase. During the international phase, your application is received and reviewed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). WIPO performs a search to determine whether your invention is patentable. The search is generally performed within a few months of filing the international (PCT) application.
  2. National Phase. Once the international phase is complete, your application needs to be turned into individual patent applications in the countries where you are seeking protection. From there, national legislation applies, and it will often take at least 2 to 3 years for your patent to be granted.

Looking to Protect Your Intellectual Property Internationally? Contact Kings IP Today!

In an increasingly globalised world, protecting your ideas overseas has become more important than ever. The process of obtaining international patents isn’t always simple, and it’s a task that’s much simpler with the help of professional attorneys. Kings Patent & Trademark Attorneys are intellectual property attorneys working throughout the Brisbane region. We help individuals and commercial clients of all sizes to obtain local and international protection for their ideas. For any help you need obtaining and managing international patents, you can contact us for a confidential consultation!

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