When applying for a patent you are going to have to decide, sooner or later, in which countries you want to register your idea. Most innovators instinctively say, worldwide. You can read all about why this is not such a good idea in my blog Applying for a patent - I want to apply for one globally.
OK, so global protection is not an option. How then do you go about deciding the geographic coverage of your invention? Every situation is different, but I would like to give you a couple of tips.
Tip 1: Where is your market? That is where you are going to protect your invention (20)
You apply for a patent in the country where you are going to bring your product to market as this is where you want to have the exclusive right and where you want to benefit from your (temporary) monopoly. After all, you are not going to suffer any damage as a result of copies in a country where you are not going to be selling your product anyway.
What to do in case of doubt?
If you are not sure about your market and are unwilling or unable to make a choice right now, there is an alternative. You can win time by using the PCT route. You can find more information on this here.
However, there comes a time when you are going to have to decide.
Tip 2: Where are my competitors?
With your patent you can forbid others from making your product or using your process. You can therefore create a strong position for yourself by registering your patent in a country where your competitor makes its products.
Moving the manufacture to a different country - where the product is not protected by a patent - is a complex and expensive option for many companies.
In practice this has proven to be a very effective way to block a competitor's activities - or to persuade a competitor to take out a licence.
Tip 3: Over land, by sea or air?
Do you manufacture goods that are shipped overseas by container? Then it may be a smart strategic choice to register your parent in countries that have a major port.
For a patented product that is manufactured in the Far East for sale on the European market, for example, you can get quite a long way by registering your Intellectual Property rights in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
The patent forbids the import of protected goods into the countries in which it is in force. The customs have the right to stop these goods at the border. With a patent that is applicable in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg are then 'barricaded' as it were.
In the case of products that are largely transported by air, you could look at a map of the world in a similar way.
Fortunately you do not need to decide straightaway which countries you should select. Instead, you can wait to see how successful the product is actually going to be - and where.