Updated November 5, 2020:

How much does an international patent cost? The answer varies. An international patent is a right granted to the inventor that excludes others from making, selling, using, or copying the invention in other nations. No single patent will protect an invention in every nation. To seek patent protection in every country would cost an estimated $2 million for filing fees and maintenance. However, you can apply for a patent that carries protection for the inventor across several countries, so long as those countries participate in the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

Costs for Obtaining Protection Internationally

A PCT application can range from $3,000 to $4,500 depending on the size of the entity seeking patent protection, as well as the invention itself. Additional fees include a transmittal fee (around $240), search fee (roughly $2,000), and international fee (roughly $1,100).

Keep in mind some additional factors:

  • The Europe Patent Office (EPO) will not act as an International Search Authority for applications with one or multiple claims to a single business method.
  • The Australian Patent Office (APO) will also not serve such a function for those applications with one more claim drawn to mechanical engineering or specific technology inventions.
  • The Israeli Patent Office (ILPO) will also not act as an International Search Authority for more than 75 applications per fiscal quarter, as well as applications with one or multiple claims per business method.

What Do the Costs Include?

  • Government fees: These costs relate to the application, prosecution, or filing fees that are paid to national or regional patent offices. These vary depending on the country, so be sure to check.
  • Attorney fees: These fees are paid to patent attorneys/agents who assist in the prosecution of the patent application. These also vary from country to country.
  • Translation costs: These are only relevant to those who are seeking Intellectual Property protection in foreign countries, and who therefore need assistance with translating from a different language.
  • Maintenance fees: These are the costs of maintaining applications and patents and are usually paid on a regular schedule, for example, every year or every five years.

Enforcement of International Patents

The international patent application has the same protections and effect of a national patent application filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Patents are limited to a specific geographic region. If you wish to safeguard your invention in several countries, you can go the direct, Paris, or PCT route. The direct route simply means that you can file multiple patent applications simultaneously directly in every country where you want your invention to be protected by a patent. Alternatively, you can file in a Paris Convention country (a Member State that participates in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property). If you go down this route, you then have 12 months from the date of the initial patent application to file in other participating countries. Lastly, you can utilize the PCT application, as referenced in detail above.

Used by major corporations, universities, and even research facilities when seeking international patent protection, the PCT may also be used by smaller enterprises and sole inventors. It depends wholly on the type of invention you want to protect and the level of protection you seek.

You can file with the World International Property Organization (WIPO), so long as your state's national security laws permit you to do so, or with your nation's patent office. You may also file with the International Bureau of the Receiving Office, e.g. if in the U.S., this would be the USPTO.

If you are living in a country that is a participant in the ARIPO Harare Protocol, Eurasian Patent Convention, European Patent Convention, or the OAPI Bangui Agreement, you can file with the regional patent office if allowed by applicable laws.

Note that obtaining patent protection in certain countries is incredibly difficult, including in China, India, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa. On the other hand, patents are easier to enforce in the United States, Canada, China, Korea, Western Europe, and Japan.

What Is the Timeframe for International Patent Protection?

The length of time will vary but can take up to several years, depending on when you choose to turn your PCT application into an actual patent application within each country. So, for example, let's say you input your PCT application on May 1 of a given year. You have up to two-and-a-half years (30 months) to decide which specific countries you will pursue patent protection. If you make this choice in the 29th month, the process really won't begin for you until then. If you know right away, the process will begin sooner.

After making your country selection, you have another 18 months before you will have to work with each specific patent office to complete the country's requirements. This allows you to better analyze your selling abilities in that country and to see if you truly do need patent protection there.

The PCT international search is a search of the pertinent patent documentation and literature required for patent protection. All paperwork is pulled for each language in which those international patent documents are published as referenced above.

While an international search is generally carried out in almost all international patent applications, sometimes a search cannot be completed. For instance, if the subject matter has no search requirements or if the description/drawing of the patent itself is not clear enough for a search to be carried out, then the application itself will state that a search was not conducted. In some circumstances, a partial search is conducted, particularly for those applications that attempt to put several inventions on only one application. In this case, since the applicant hasn't paid the additional search fees, a search will not be conducted.

The search report itself will help determine whether or not your invention can be patented in each specific country. It will include references and literature explaining, in the country's published language, which should be disclosed on the international application. Don't forget — this search is completed after filing your PCT application.

In addition to the results, you will be provided with a written opinion on the probability of successfully applying for patent protection. Only those that are given the role by the PCT participating states as International Searching Authorities can carry out the international search. The appointees include:

  • The national offices of Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Egypt, Finland, India, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, and the U.S.
  • The European Patent Office and the Nordic Patent Institute regional office

Patents for Startup Companies

If you operate a startup company, you'll first want to apply for a domestic patent with the USPTO. Once you have successfully applied and obtained patent protection in the United States, you can file a PCT application to better understand which countries you'll want to seek protection in. You want to be mindful of those countries' requirements, deadlines, and fees to be successful in each of your applications.

If you need help applying for an international patent, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.