How do I decide whether to enter the national stage?

During the PCT process, you may find yourself asking questions like: “Should I enter the national stage?” “How do I decide in which countries to file?”

National patent protection should be considered in countries where you or your competitors manufacture. You should also consider patent protection where you have the greatest sales or use of your product or process. With the expense of foreign patent protection, most patent applicants only proceed in key countries (and only key technologies). The point is to consider where you take the greatest advantage of protecting your technology by making strategic, cost-effective decisions.

The biggest export markets that companies in the US consider include Canada, China, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Other large markets include Australia, Brazil and India. Japan and Europe are quite expensive (budget at least $10,000 for each). China tends to be around $4,500 and India around $3,000. The investment of foreign filing in these countries can be cost-effective patent protection given the large markets.

For Europe, rather than filing in all the European countries, many companies focus on only Germany (with the most manufacturing) or the Netherlands (an international port). A general rule of thumb is that if you want to file in more than three European countries, it is cheaper to do a regional EPO filing. In the EPO, you can file your national stage up to 31 months.

There are about 50 jurisdictions where the PCT process cannot be used and a direct national filing is the only route available. These include Taiwan and Argentina, as well as several other South American countries. A list of non-PCT countries can be found here.