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Patents: Foreign and International Law

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)


The WIPO is one of the 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations and has its intergovernmental organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Its main mission is to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world through cooperation among nations. (Intellectual property includes inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, and copyrights.) As of February 20, 1997, the WIPO membership includes 161 countries.

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You may also search for European, PCT, and Japanese patents from the European Patent Office webpage. (Note: Be sure you have JavaScript enabled when you do a search.)


Foreign Patents

International Patent Protection

     Patent protection granted to an inventor by a government is only valid in the country where the inventor requested it. The rights do not extend beyond that country. For example, U.S. patents are valid only in the 50 states and its territories and do not provide legal protection in any other countries. When you wish to obtain patent protection for the same invention in other countries, you must file an application in each country separately. Attempting to pursue patent protection individually in several countries, however, can be complex and expensive, since each country has its own unique patent laws and practices. Important features in patent laws and practices that are significantly different among various nations are being negotiated under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

International Patent Search

Espacenet (worldwide patents via EPO) - This site provides a patent search engine of over 70 million international patent documents.

The Lexis Patent Tab will allow you to search for patents worldwide under the Find Patents Tab. (subscription required)

Westlaw offers international patent research under the International Patents, Applications, and Assignments box. (subscription required)


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