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To protect new inventions from theft by another party, the inventor must file an international patent if he wishes to make his patent valid outside his home country. Built on the principles of The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) established in 1970, an international patent ensures that the rights to an invention belong solely to the inventor or the person he chooses to sell the rights to. It is important to note that this covers only patents, not trademarks or copyrights, and the law only applies in countries that have agreed to be bound by The Patent Cooperation Treaty.
Before patent laws existed, anyone could claim credit for an invention. If a person came up with a useful new machine, his neighbor could easily steal the idea and sell it for money with no reprimand from the law. After the PCT came into effect, inventors were granted rights to their inventions if they filed a patent application, also known as an international application or PCT application, with the PCT.
Common misconceptions arise over the terms patent, copyright and trademark. A patent is an original, useful creation such as a new machine. Copyright refers to an original work of art, such as a novel, while a trademark refers to an item that represents a product, service or company. A book publisher's logo is a trademark, the novel an author writers is an example of copyright, and a new machine created for printing books falls under the patent category.
An inventor who needs to file an international patent application should first search the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) database, found on the WIPO's website. Searching the database ensures another person has not already filed a similar patent. The WIPO database organizes patents into a patent hierarchy, thus allowing visitors to easily research patents based on type and category.
When the inventor is sure his invention has not been created before, he follows legal procedures by first applying for a patent in his home country. Next, he applies with the WIPO and waits for the organization to grant his patent. Once granted, all countries who follow the PCT must honor this patent and take legal action if the inventor claims a citizen of that country has stolen his idea.
Applying for an international patent is a long, drawn-out process that should not be taken lightly. If part of an invention has been created before, the inventor will have to overcome the extra burden of proving his invention is original enough to warrant patent protection. Despite the long process, those with a unique creation will find an international patent provides far-reaching legal protection and saves both money and time in the long run.