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Patents: International Patents

Guide to searching among United States and foreign patents (prior art) to determine whether an idea can be patented.

Patents Are Only Granted by Individual Countries or Regions

  • Many people believe that one can apply for an "international patent" - patents are only granted on the national or regional level by the intellectual property office of each country or region.
  • The Paris Convention allows a 12 month grace period for a patent applicant in one member country to apply for a patent in another member country of which there are 177 including the United States.
  • 153 patent-granting jurisdictions, including the United States, are Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) members.  An application submitted via the PCT Program establishes a filing date in all PCT member states and makes it easier for an inventor to apply for a patent for his or her invention in several countries simultaneously without having to translate the application into the language of that country/those countries and at a reduced application fee schedule.
  • Please note that while the United States Patent & Trademark Office allows an inventor up to 12 months to apply for a patent if the invention is first disclosed to the public, many foreign intellectual property offices do not consider an invention patentable once it is disclosed to the public.  Therefore, if an inventor intends on obtaining patents beyond a United States patent then that person must not publicly disclose his or her invention until he or she has applied for either a non-provisional or provisional United States patent.
  • USPTO PCT Help Desk telephone number +1-571-272-4300
  • Design patents, or Industrial Design patents, can be easily registered in 74 participating countries via the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs.
  • See the USPTO's Pursuing International IP Protection for further information about treaties and agreements providing protection for various forms of intellectual property in countries outside of the United States.