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International patent protection is hugely valuable for companies like Apple or Samsung. But is it right for your startup? Patents can allow you to prevent competitors from using your patented technology, which can grant unique advantages in the market. From a business perspective, patents may help to:

  • drive investment and acquisitions;
  • provide protection during partnerships and business deals; and
  • defend your startup from patent lawsuits and by others.  

Patents can also provide an excellent exit strategy for businesses, as they are an asset that you can buy and sell with a business.

Where Should I Start?

Your first step should be identifying: 

  • what intellectual property (IP) you have; and 
  • where you may want to launch, manufacture or commercialise products or services that rely on your IP. 

A patent is a state-granted monopoly over a particular invention for a period of time (8-20 years). Patents are only valid within the countries for which they have this monopoly. 

For example, a patent in Australia will not stop infringement in another country, such as the United Kingdom. For this reason, startups should get as much protection internationally as their finances allow.

However, the reality is that patent protection can be expensive. Different countries:

  • charge different fees for patent applications;
  • rely on different laws and deadlines; and 
  • may require translation.

Therefore, you will need to rely on the services of many different patent professionals when maintaining an international patent portfolio. A qualified attorney in Australia can coordinate this for you. 

Despite these considerations, international patent protection is very valuable in a global economy.

For example, if you only have protection for a product in Australia, there is nothing stopping a competitor from making that product overseas and selling it in every country except Australia. 

How Can I Save Money?

As a startup, balancing the protection of your valuable intellectual property with good cost-saving practices is key.

The best way to save money is to have a professional draft your patent application before you file, to: 

  • ensure it has the best chance of success; and 
  • minimise extra fees and penalties (both legal and monetary) for not meeting the requirements of a legally-binding patent document.  

A good patent attorney will draft a patent application with a knowledge of the requirements associated with all the major jurisdictions. This will save you a lot of money when it comes to filing in your chosen countries, as you will be able to carry the same patent document you file in your starting country into every other country.

Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)

Another way to save money in the early stages of commercialising your IP is the international patent pathway the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) affords its members, including Australia. The PCT allows you to designate multiple countries where you may want to file the patent application in advance of having to file in those countries, and effectively gives you another 18 months from filing a PCT application before you actually have to file in your chosen countries. In this interim period, you can: 

  • fine tune your invention; 
  • familiarise yourself with your target market; 
  • raise funds; and 
  • investigate potential buyers.

Choose Countries Carefully

It is also important to carefully choose countries that are: 

  • strategic for your target market; or 
  • where you would want to commercialise your invention for your patent filings. 

You should understand your invention back-to-front and your target market. Once you know this, you can work out where: 

  • it will sell; and
  • you can make it. 

Finally, whilst you might not know every detail of the process of filing a foreign patent, a general understanding can significantly reduce costs. You can save money on procedural costs associated with patent filings through simple steps such as:

  • keeping claim numbers down to 15-20; 
  • reducing page numbers;
  • keeping on top of deadlines to avoid extra fees; and 
  • trying to get a good “clear” report when your PCT application is reviewed.  

Patents are complex documents that require an investment of time and resources to obtain. A patent attorney can help you to draft a better patent application for your invention and navigate the tricky process of getting both domestic and overseas protection.

Key Takeaways

The process of applying for international patent protection can be complex and expensive. However, international patent protection is an important consideration for your startup. If you need help with protecting your invention internationally, please contact LegalVision’s patent lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a patent?

A patent is a state-granted monopoly over a particular invention for a period of time (8-20 years).

Can I get an international patent?

There is no such thing as an international patent. Instead, you must apply for a patent in every country you require patent protection.

What is the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)?

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is an international patent pathway. The PCT allows you to designate multiple countries where you may want to file the patent application in advance of having to file in those countries. Therefore, you will have another 18 months from filing a PCT application before you actually have to file in your chosen countries.

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