Many companies choose to use the international patent application as a means of filing in numerous countries. Within 30 months they will then select the countries for national filings. The application then enters the patent process of the country. Some countries have only a registry system and the patent automatically grants. Other countries have a prosecution system in which the invention is evaluated prior to grant. The system in each country determines the time required from date of application to grant. The average time required to obtain a patent in the US is 3-4 years. In Brazil it is about 10 years.
Patents have a life of 20 years from the effective filing date. During that time fees are paid to maintain the patent protection. In the United States maintenance fees are paid in years 3, 7 and 11. The amounts increase for each of these periods. See the USPTO Fee Schedule.
In foreign countries, the fees are often paid yearly and may either be constant or progressively more expensive.
Since the costs of maintaining patents increase over time, it is essential to regularly evaluate the value of the protection in view of the product sales, competition and market conditions.
The patent portfolio is an important part of an organizations intangible assets. Business leaders and innovation teams need to be aware of the portfolio in order to leverage existing assets and develop new ones. Mapping of the portfolio by technology and/or product is an efficient means of presenting the portfolio and identifying any gaps.
When mapping is done by associating patents with products, an organization is better aware of the value those assets are providing.
A heightened awareness of the patent portfolio facilitates maintenance decisions, identifies licensing or sale opportunities, and detects potential infringement.