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Patent Trademark

Patent Trademark

International patent trademark

If you are thinking about applying for a patent in your own country and imagine that there might be an international market for the product you have developed, it's important to think wider from the outset. A patent only protects an invention within the country it's granted in: for international patent trademark protection it's necessary to go through another application procedure. There are increasing efforts to harmonize international patent laws, though - the World Trade Organization's Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights agreement (TRIPS), introduced in 1995, is one of the many patenting-friendly pieces of legislation which both sides of the Atlantic have seen come into existence in recent years.

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International patent trademark and commercial identifiers are applied for through these bodies that have been set up to smooth over boundaries. The largest is the World Industrial Property Organization, WIPO (www.wipo.int), which administers the Patent Co-operation Treaty. About 100 countries have signed up to this. When you're thinking about where to register your patent trademark, think about where your markets are, and where the money is. Research potential areas carefully. Not every country is a member of a collective body, although there are several of these covering areas including Africa and the former Soviet Republic as well as the rest of Europe . If you are interested in only one or two other countries, it is probably worth applying directly to them. Bear in mind that a US inventor needs a license from the government before they can market their idea internationally. That's generally a formality, except if your invention involves nuclear technology or large-scale weaponry, in which case there will be some negotiating to do.

Europe is obviously a major market for many products. The US Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) European counterpart, the European Patent Office, can extend US patents to Europe. The EPO is a strange beast which operates in relation to the European Union but, since it came into being before the latter, encompasses countries outside the EU. The confusion which potentially - and actually - ensues from this can be illustrated by that ubiquitous bone of contention, genetic patents. The EPO, like USPTO, was lobbied by the biotech industry to explicitly sanction gene patents, and in 1998 an EU directive came out doing just that. Conveniently ignoring the fact that some of the EPO's member countries are not under EU jurisdiction. Environmental agencies and some governments (even ones in the EU) are still complaining about the directive. Anyway, that's by the by. You can find EPO at www.european-patent-office.org.