Global Issues in Patent Law

Intellectual Property and Patents

Article Snapshot


Martin Adelman, Shubha Ghosh, Amy L. Landers and Toshiko Takenaka


Thomson Reuters, 2011


This book is a compressive overview of international patent law and the international treaties currently in effect.

Policy Relevance

As technological import and export continues to develop and grow, so will the importance of ensuring patent protection across national borders. This can be achieved through both internal patent reforms as well as treaties designed to coordinate international patent law.

Main Points

  • Global patent law refers to the treaties and international institutions that govern the patent systems of various countries. There is no global patent able to protect intellectual property (IP) rights across borders; thus, it is necessary to understand the similarities and differences between different patent systems in order to protect IP.
  • Several treaties are currently in effect with the goal of coordinating patent application and enforcement across borders.


    • The Paris Convention binds many countries throughout Europe and Asia, as well as the U.S., to several common principles regarding patent applications. The treaty requires all member nations to grant the same rights to foreign inventors as is offered to domestic inventors and allows for priority to be given to inventors who have already filed patent claims in another member country.
    • The Patent Cooperation Treaty allows for the streamlined filing of patent application in multiple countries simultaneously.
    • The TRIPA Agreement is a compressive IP treaty which sets minimum IP law standards that must be adopted and enforced by all member nations.
  • What can and cannot be patented varies both by locality and by subject matter. Under the TRIPA Agreement, some patentability issues are standardized; however, complexity continues to exist in non-member nations as well as in complex fields such as biological sciences and software development.
  • In order to file a successful patent application, it is necessary to disclose the process of creating the product or process of the patent such that it can be recreated. It is also necessary to establish that the invention is sufficiently novel as to warrant protection.
  • Infringement of protected IP happens when another individual or company commercializes the patented invention or process. The holder of the IP rights can then bring suit against the infringing party; however, the degree of protection and manner of enforcement varies by country.
  • Following successful litigation, a court can award either monetary relief or issue injunctions, prohibiting the infringing company from continuing to utilize the protected IP. The scope and enforcement of remedies also varies between different countries.


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