Patent Choices

An inventor may wish to obtain patent protection to protect

his invention. In a global economy, protection in more than one

country may be necessary. We consider the routes available when

seeking patent protection.

What Is A Patent?

Patents provide protection for inventions, and enable the

patentee to prevent third parties making, using or selling the

invention. Most articles which function in a new way, most

machines, methods, processes, compounds and compositions are

patentable. The invention has to be new and unobvious at the

date of application for the patent.

Patents are not granted in respect of the shapes or patterns

of articles or their visual appearance. Visual appearances may

be protected by design registration. Furthermore, patents are

not granted in respect of trade names, marks, or logos, which

may be protected by trade mark registration.

Protecting An Invention In More Than One


Under various international agreements, a first patent

application in a Convention country automatically provides a

right to claim priority in most other countries in the world.

This means that foreign applications in respect of the

invention can effectively have the same date as the initial

local application provided that those foreign applications are

filed within twelve months of the date on which the first local

application was filed.

Choice Of Route

There are three main routes by which patent protection can

be obtained overseas but not all three routes are available in

each country. The routes are

  1. an individual national application in any country


  2. a regional application, such as a European application,

    for the relevant countries, and

  3. an International (PCT) application under the Patent

    Cooperation Treaty.

    National Patent Application

    An individual national patent application can be filed at

    the local Patent Office of each country in which a patent is

    required. Each Patent Office then conducts its own processing

    of the application and, if successful, a national patent is

    granted. The filing costs vary considerably from country to

    country, and will be significant if a translation of the

    specification into another language is required. The cost of

    prosecuting the application to grant of a patent, and the

    length of time of prosecution, vary enormously from country to

    country and from application to application. In countries such

    as France and South Africa there are virtually no prosecution

    costs, whereas in the more expensive countries, for...

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