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Simple patent question

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Alright folks, just a quick question on patents. I''m sure it''s a common one, but I couldn''t get a straight answer out of Google. If someone/thing holds a US patent on an idea, does that apply in other countries (the EU specifically)? Far as I know, it only applies in the US, but I just thought there could be treaties or some such governing this kind of thing. Assuming it does only apply to the US, I imagine the implications are that you could commercially develop a product/idea elsewhere, but couldn''t market or sell it in the US? Could you take out a patent on it yourself in another country?

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You are correct. A US held patent is valid only in the US. The same applies to the UK and probably to most other countries (although I have not bothered to check this).

US Patent office http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/index.html#patent

UK Patent office http://www.patent.gov.uk/links/index.htm

UK Patent office links to various international patent officeshttp://www.patent.gov.uk/links/international.htm

A couple of important points to remember.
1. People who patent an invention are intent on protecting it and so are more likely to patent it in other major territories too. Make sure you check before going ahead with whatever cunning plan you have devised

2. Patent protection also protects against importing the patented invention into the country to which the patent applies. You may well be able to copy an invention that is not patented in Ireland but you will not be able to sell it in any state where the original inventor has gained a patent.

3. If this item is software and you sell it online in such a way that people from restricted countries can get it you would almost certainly be open to prosecution or at least legal hassle from the patent holder unless you took serious action to bar access to individuals from the restricted countries. Simply sticking a note up saying "don't download this if you are in America" may not provide suitable protection.

At the end of the day this is something you need to talk to a lawyer about.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions

[edited by - obscure on November 9, 2002 8:44:32 AM]

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Obscure, thanks for that, confirms a few things I discovered in the meantime. Obviously I would take legal advice if push came to shove - I''m just tossing round ideas at the moment. I''m not even sure the particular idea I''m thinking of actually got a patent in the end - I haven''t been able to find it in the US Patent Office''s records, although obviously that''s another job for a lawyer.

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