A U.S. patent protects your rights only within this country. Keep in mind that each country's patent office has its own requirements and quirks as well as (very often) its own language. Patents are an area of law and the law of any given country applies to its own patents.
International Patent Agreements
As of April 2008, the U.S. has accelerated patent application agreements with certain countries. As stated on the USPTO's Web site,
"Under the Patent Prosecution Highway, an applicant receiving a ruling from either the [countries we have agreements with] or the USPTO that at least one claim in an application is patentable may request that the other office fast track the examination of corresponding claims in corresponding applications. The Patent Prosecution Highway will leverage fast-track patent examination procedures already available in both offices to allow applicants in both countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently." (Visit the PPH pages of the USPTO for the most current information.)
Derwent Innovation Index (via NCSU Libraries)
- The Derwent Innovation Index database is an excellent source of patent and related literature, available through the Libraries. Guest users must use the resource on site. NC State users may access the database remotely.
- Tutorial: Patent Searching using Derwent Innovations Index
The European Patent Office provides a consolidated database for its 34 member states (EPO is an autonomous body, not part of the European Union). Applying through EPO enables one to apply for a patent in all member states with one application--if one is applying in three or more countries, this is far less expensive than applying in each country individually.
Keep in Mind: Keyword searches for international patents are just as unlikely to be comprehensive as those for U.S. patents. Use of International Patent Classification (IPC) codes are strongly recommended.
All three of the following asian countries' English-language abstracts can be searched in esp@cenet. They also offer English language interfaces from their home site:
- State Intellectual Property Office of the People's Republic of China
- Japanese Patent Office (Abstracts searchable via PubWEST in English)
- Korean Industrial Property Rights Information Service
Additional Resources on International Intellectual Property
- esp@cenet's Coverage of the Worldwide Database - includes link to Country Codes, as well as one to Patent Documents Availability (which details date coverage for each country)
- USPTO's list of links to Individual Countries' Patent Offices
- USPTO's International Intellectual Property page
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)