So how is it possible that there is a single world-wide application but no world-wide content?
Patents are granted by individual countries, not by any international authority. Soon the European Union will change this by granting Europe wide patent, but even then to obtain a patent around the world multiple jurisdiction will need to authorize the application and grant the rights. The patent application process can be streamlined and uniform ,as with the PCT process, but individual countries have different patent laws, which make a uniform world-wide patent granting process impossible. For example, in some parts of the world living organisms are not patentable but in the United States at least some living organisms are patentable if they are a product of human engineering. Similarly, in much of worlds computer software is patentable, but computer software’s have become very difficult to patent in the United States.
The morale of the story is that: The protection you receive to cover your invention varies not only based on whether the country issuing the patent has a meaningful enforcement mechanism available to stop infringement, but also varies in kind depending upon whether a particular country will even grant a patent on underlying innovation. when one seeks international patent rights it is typically wise to draft the application so it would be appropriate in United States. The United States and China have among the most stringent disclosure requirement and historically United States has also broadest interpretation of what is considered patentable subject matter.
Direct Filling vs. International Filling
The first point which come sin mind of the inventors or the business people is to first file the patent application in the country which they reside. This direct filling option is accomplished pursuant to the laws and regulations of whatever country the application is field in. A U.S. patent application such as provisional patent application or non-provisional patent application is a direct filling option. From the U.S. perspective, a filing in patent office other than the USPTO, that is not filed pursuant to the PCT is considered foreign application. Direct U.S. patent application and foreign patent application are distinguished from foreign patent application, which can be filed in any receiving office around the world.
If you file either the U.S. patent application or foreign patent application you can still file a international patent application pursuant to PCT within 12 months of earliest filing date. If you file your international patent application within 12 months of your earliest filing date then your international patent application is given priority as the filing date of the first filling. What this means is that when your application ultimately gets examined substantively i will be considered to have been filed as of the earliest filing date, which means anything that happens after teh date cannot be a prior art.
Whether you use an earlier filed patent application to support priority for filling of PCT Application or you file an international application without a previous date filing, you will ultimately need to enter in what is called “national phase”, in every country where you wish to obtain a patent. You have 30 months from the filing date of international application within which to enter in national phase in any country you wish. At this point in time things can get extremely expensive because you would have to pay national fees to each country, and you would have to obtain translations into a language of each country where you wish to proceed. Your primary patent attorney can usually do coordinate international prosecution, but they cannot represent you in countries, where they are not admitted to practice.
Deciding where to Pursue Patent Right
The best course of action is to file an application and pursue that process as long as possible. This is particularly helpful if the innovation is at an early stage or encompasses basic scientific research that will need to be translated into a commercially useful innovation. In these scenarios, so much can go wrong from scientific breakthrough to commercially useful invention that it does not make sense to spend a vast sum of money early in the process when the invention may still fail to prove itself.
Because the international filling process can be strung out to 30 months from the date of the earliest filing date that gives you a lot more time to determine whether the invention is worth pursuing and where it makes sense to seek patent protection. This extended time period is not ideal for an invention with a limited shelf life, but when the innovation may not proof to be worth the investment to protect you are giving yourself time to determine where you really want to seek patent protection and enter national phase.