Do international patents exist? The short answer is NO! However, international Patent Applications do exist. So, if you can file and international patent application, why can't you get an international patent?
The confusion stems from a vocabulary problem. A patent application filed under the terms of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is officially called an international patent application. Practitioners generally don't use the term international patent application--we generally call these applications PCT applications to avoid any confusion.
A PCT application is similar, in some ways, to an international provisional patent application. Without further action, in the countries in which you want patent protection, it will become abandoned and you will never receive a patent in another country. If you want patent protection in a foreign country then, during the pendency of the PCT application, a National Stage Application must be filed--this is an application that references (claims priority to) the underlying PCT application.
That national stage application will have an effective filing date based on the PCT application and ONLY the national stage application will become a patent.
So, the general flow for international protection is:
US application ===> PCT Application ===> National Stage Application(s) in foreign country(ies).
There are other paths, but this is one of the most common paths to seek protection overseas.
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