The Paris Convention gives the right to priority. This is where a patent application has been filed in a contracting state within 12 months of the first filing date in another contracting state. This will allow the applicant to back date the application date to the first application date. This provision was originally drafted when the applications had to go through the postal system.
It is possible to protect an invention in 148 countries via the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
The Patent Cooperation Treaty was concluded in Washington in 1970 and came into force in 1978. It is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
The major benefit of this treaty is the fact that it makes it possible to simultaneously file patents in numerous countries.
Ensuring that the international patent application complies with the requirements for obtaining an filing date it will run much like a national patent application. The patent must not be in the public domain, involve an inventive step and be industrially applicable.
Another major benefit is that if all the formal requirements that are set out in the Patent Cooperation Treaty are met. There is no need to adapt the application to meet other national requirements.
The international patent application is usually filed at the national intellectual property office. This is then transmitted to the international authorities (ISA, SISA and IPEA), they carry out a patent search for any similar patents. After the patent search they will then prepare the written report and transfer it to the World Intellectual Property Office in Geneva.
The World Intellectual Property Office will publish the patent to Patentscope, this will then be communicated to the national and regional patent offices. This effectively ends the international patent application.
This process will usually take around 30 months from the date of filing with the original patent office.