Available to those who want to protect a technical invention are several possibilities of choice. With reference to an Italian Applicant, he can:
These opportunities have, in the order, as main advantage a greater territorial coverage and, as disadvantage, higher costs.
The Italian patent is a title of protection only valid in the Italian territory, and to get it one must refer to the Italian Patents & Trademarks Office (U.I.B.M.) in Rome. A filing fee of small entity is due.
Included in the cost of the fees paid, the applicant receives approximately after 9-10 months a search for prior art performed by the European Patent Office. The search also contains a preliminary opinion on patentability. Undoubtedly having supported the filing almost for free with a quality prior art search has improved a lot the Italian patents, which are now also subject to a merit examination that begins about 3 months after publication, i.e. about 21 months after the filing. The examination is based on the search and on the opinion of patentability.
The European patent is a unified procedure for obtaining patents in several European states at once. The patent application can be filed immediately or within 1 year from the filing of a national patent in Italy. The states covered by a European patent are fundamentally those of the European Union and other neighboring countries.
It is good to clarify that the European patent is NOT a single patent valid for the whole Europe. When granted, it shall be nationalized in the states of interest, where it will live, state by state, a life independent of others. For example, if 5 states were designated, after the grant there will be 5 different patents, one for each state and all the same (except for translation of the text).
The recent approval of the Community patent is about to change this state of affairs: there will be in effect in the future a single patent valid throughout the Community. We invite you to deepen this news in our NEWS section.
The patent procedure is divided into several phases. First there is the filing of the application, with the examination of formal issues and the payment of fees. Then the European Patent Office performs a search of prior art (finds documents that can anticipate the invention), accompanied by an opinion of patentability. After 18 months from the filing there is publication of the application, which becomes open to the public and visible on the Internet. Then the examination stage follows, which must start at the request of the applicant within a certain time and involves the payment of an examination fee (non payment entails that patent application is deemed to be withdrawn).
During examination the application can be accepted or rejected, in which case one can oppose preparing an appeal.
The application is to be submitted in one language, chosen from English, French or German.
The validity of the European patent is 20 years from the date of the application'filing.
A peculiarity of the European patent is the opposition phase. Within nine months from the date of grant, any third party can file an opposition against the European patent, if it considers that the patent does not meet the requirements of patentability. Such opposition is evaluated by a specialized Division of the European Patent Office. The decision of the European Patent Office has effect in all designated states, which means that if the patent is rejected or changed this will be reflected in all states. It is possible however to appeal against a decision of the Opposition Division.
The international patent (or rather International APPLICATION), called PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty), allows to book the patent virtually anywhere in the world. It is a filing procedure with unitary effect in the countries that have acceded to this Convention.
It is good to clarify that the PCT application is not a single title valid for all countries. It must be nationalized in the states of interest, in which it will continue the patent procedure state by state, independently of the others. For example, if USA, AU and CN are prosecuted, after a while there will be 3 national applications, one in each state, which are subjected to an examination and/or rules that can be different.
After the filing, a search for prior art is performed, as in the European patent.
The main advantage, despite higher initial filing costs, is to postpone costs pertaining filings in several countries for a period of at least 30 months from the filing date of the PCT application.