Guide

Protecting your intellectual property abroad

Applying for a patent in other countries

A UK patent for your invention applies in the UK only. For protection overseas you need to file an application in each of the separate countries in which you want protection.

But the process can be simplified by making a single application through one of two international treaties to which the UK is a member.

Protection in Europe

If you want protection in two or more European countries that have signed the European Patent Convention, it may be worth filing an application through the European Patent Office (EPO). Find out how to apply for a European patent.

In your application you state the separate countries in which you want patent protection, but your application undergoes a single search and examination process.

Once granted, a European patent becomes a number of national patents that you must maintain in the separate national offices.

Protection throughout the world

The international Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) allows you to make a single initial application for a patent in 148 countries, including countries that have signed the European Patent Convention. You can make an application under the PCT to the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). UK applicants can also file PCT applications at either the Intellectual Property Office in the UK or at the EPO. Read a guide to the PCT.

After searches are carried out by an International Searching Authority and a preliminary assessment of patentability has been conducted, you decide in which countries you wish to apply for patent protection. The application then splits into separate national patent applications which are processed and granted by the national patent offices in each of your chosen countries.

Fast-track patents

If you decide to proceed with a PCT application in the UK and have received a positive assessment of patentability in the international phase, you can request accelerated treatment in the UK under the PCT (UK) fast-track scheme.

Find out about the PCT (UK) fast-track scheme and fast grant patents.

International Unit of the Intellectual Property Office

The International Unit of the Intellectual Property Office checks your application and forwards it to the EPO or the World Intellectual Property Organization. If you use either of these routes, the International Unit of the Intellectual Property Office in the UK acts as a receiving office. 

Getting help

Patent law is complex and mistakes when seeking patent protection can make a big difference to your ability to successfully exploit your invention and protect your rights. It can be advisable to seek advice from a patent attorney. Search for a patent attorney in your area.