IP Guide for SMEs

Some Common Features of Procedures for the Grant and Maintenance of Patents

By World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)



A patent is an exclusive right granted for a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something or offers a new technical solution to a problem (for a more detailed explanation, click here).

In a number of countries, patents are granted after the main criteria for patentability (novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability) have been considered satisfied. Many countries, however, do not undertake an examination as to substance due to financial and other constraints. Such offices confine themselves to an examination of the formalities that you are required to comply with before filing your patent application. Some of the countries that carry out substantive examination do so automatically upon the receipt of a patent application while others do so only upon the filing of a special request. Such an examination request must be filed within a certain period of time which, according to the applicable patent law, may be a period of up to several years. Depending upon the possibility to defer examination and whether or not opposition proceedings are allowed prior to the grant of the patent, the procedure for the grant of a patent may be very time-consuming. Effort is therefore made, in many countries and at the international level, to accelerate the procedure prior to grant. In addition, a number of countries provide that patent applications be published after a certain period of time (usually, after 18 months from the filing date or, where priority has been claimed, from the priority date (see Frequently Asked Questions).

The applicant is generally required to pay an application fee and may have to pay an examination fee (where an examination is carried out as to substance) and an annual maintenance fee for the application. In most countries, patent maintenance fees are to be paid annually (annuities). In accordance with international obligations under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement), there is a minimum period of grace of six months for non-payment of maintenance fees, though countries are free to allow longer grace periods. Failure to pay maintenance fees during the grace period would lead to the lapsing of the patent retroactively, i.e., as of the original due date of annuity.

For practical information on the costs of patenting, the time taken for patents to be granted and other useful FAQs, see link or contact your national IP office.