Inventors naturally want to obtain patent protection for their invention on as wide a scale as possible. As a result, we are regularly asked as patent attorneys about filing patent applications in every country in the world.
Apart from the high cost of filing patent applications in very large numbers of countries, there are a number of other reasons why we, as patent attorneys, caution against it when asked whether it is possible to file a patent application in every country.
It isn’t possible
Even if you wanted to file in every country in the world you can’t do so, as some countries don’t have a patent system.
The countries in which you simply cannot file patent are applications are typically less developed countries, or ones that are going through some form of civil unrest, such as (but not limited to) Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea, the Maldives, Timor-Leste and the Marshall Islands.
At best, some of these countries may allow you to “protect” an invention through the publication of cautionary notices in local newspapers, but in some countries, there is no mechanism at all for protecting inventions.
Why would you?
There are good reasons as to why you would not wish to file in certain countries, even though it is possible to do so.
For instance, it is possible to file a patent application in North Korea, although it would be basically impossible to determine whether there are parties within North Korea infringing on your patent. Even if you somehow became aware of such an infringement, there are serious question marks over whether it would actually be possible to enforce a patent against an infringer in that country.
Is it worth it?
Some countries have such small populations (and therefore potential consumers of an invention) that the cost of obtaining patent protection in a country may far outweigh any commercial benefit of filing in that country.
By way of example, Monaco has a population of 40,000 people, while the Caribbean nation of St Kitts & Nevis has a population of just under 54,000. If your invention is a relatively low-cost item, you are going to have to sell an awful lot of products in these countries to justify the cost of patent protection.
Is your invention patentable in a particular country?
Despite ongoing efforts, patent laws around the world are a long way from being harmonised. As a result, you might be able to obtain patent protection for an invention in one country, only to find that the invention is simply not eligible for patent protection in another.
Australia, for instance, grants patents for inventions relating to methods of medical treatment of humans. New Zealand, on the other hand, does not.
Similarly, Myanmar (which has only recently reinstated its patent laws) will not allow patents to be granted for pharmaceutical products until 2033.
In light of the above, the careful selection of countries in which to file based on the nature of your invention is crucial.
Is your invention going to find a market in a particular country?
In some industries, such as building and construction, products that may comply with official standards in one country, may not meet the equivalent standards in another country.
In a similar vein, just because a process (such as a construction process or manufacturing process) is the industry standard in one country does not mean that the same process will be standard in any other country.
Without proper research, you could end up filing a patent application in a country in which your invention is simply not compatible with local practices or industries.
In summary, there is a number of reasons why you should carefully consider where you should file a patent application for your invention rather than simply looking to file in as many countries as possible.
When selecting your target countries, we would typically recommend that patent applicants focus their filings on countries in which they know there is a ready-made market for their invention (or countries in which they could realistically create a market for the invention in the short- to medium-term).
A secondary consideration would be to file in countries in which the invention will be manufactured but not necessarily sold.
Beyond that, however, there is typically little value in spending your hard-earned money filing patent applications in countries where there is minimal (or no) market for your invention.
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The team at Kings are experts in patent and trade marks law. Contact Us today so we can help you with any patent application you may have.