I am often asked by inventors how they can protect their invention outside of the US. Although you can file patent applications in individual countries, probably the most common avenue is to file a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) patent application.
If you file a PCT patent application, you can then enter any or all member countries individually within 30 months of the priority patent application filing date. Click here to view a world map and list of countries that are members of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
As you can see, there are some countries that are not WIPO members. If you want to file in any of these countries, you will need to file patent applications in those countries individually prior to any public disclosure (including press releases or other publications).
The filing fees alone for filing a PCT patent application are currently about $2500. Attorneys typically charge another $500 or more for filing the PCT patent application. You will then need to file national stage patent applications claiming priority to your PCT patent application in individual countries (or the European Patent Office) within 30 months of the priority application filing date (20 months in some countries, and a few months longer in others).
Filing in individual countries gets very expensive, because you have to pay your US attorney, the foreign attorney, and foreign government fees for every transaction (and don’t forget the monetary exchange rates!). Filing a single national stage patent application can quickly cost several thousands of dollars. In addition, many foreign governments charge annual fees while your patent application is pending. Then to respond to foreign office actions, you will incur additional fees.
Don’t forget translation fees if you are filing your patent application in non-English speaking countries!
As you can see, foreign filing gets very expensive, very quickly. I typically do not recommend my individual or small business clients spend their money on foreign filing, unless they already have operations in a particular foreign country or reasonably foresee going into that market in the near-term. That’s because the money saved can usually be better spent pursuing their invention in the US. For example. spending that money on building, testing, and marketing their invention, instead of on foreign patent applications.
I don’t like to see anyone blow their budget on international filing, and then not have enough money to pursue their invention and end up having to walk away from it all after having made a substantial investment.
That being said, however, filing foreign patent applications is a business decision that every inventor will need to make based on their own budget and goals for their invention.