When you file for a patent, it is granted by the national patent office or by a regional patent office. Under some regional systems, such as the European Patent Office and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization, you can request protection for your patent in one or more countries. Each county decides whether or not it will offer you a patent protection in their country.
There are no ‘world patents’ or ‘international patents’ in existence at this time. Usually, you file for a patent and it is then granted and enforced or denied. You would have to do this in each country that you seek protection for your invention, keeping with the laws of each individual country. Each country is different in their requirements for granting patents and each country has its own fee schedule as well.
The best bet for the most protection with your invention and patents internationally is to contact an experienced patent attorney who specializes in intellectual property in each of the countries you are interested in gaining a patent in.
It can be quite pricey to have a patent in many countries, but if your patent is extreme and innovative, it may be worth it. You don’t want people across the borders of the US to infringe on your patent and come up with a similar idea on their own, which they likely got from you.
Remember, that once a patent is published, any person can access that file and once the patent is granted, anyone can purchase the publication.
The best person to help you with the decision about how many countries you should seek out a patent in is a patent attorney. They will be able to help you ascertain if your patent should be internationally patented or if only your home country should be considered. A patent attorney will also be able to help you choose amongst the countries that should be chosen.
It’s not an easy task to seek out international patents – the same procedures are in effect in most countries, which means that you would have to search the country’s patents to see if any are in effect already which are the same or similar to yours. This process can take a long time, however it may very well be worth it in the end. Infringing on a patent in any country can leave you with literally nothing if the offended company or person decides to sue you for damages for using their idea and infringing on their patent.
The easiest thing for you as an inventor to do is hire a patent attorney to help you out. Your attorney can then search the patent databases of other countries to see if any similar patents exist. It may be better to have your patent attorney do that anyway so that you can be sure that your invention is indeed innovative, useful and new.