For my next series of blog posts, I would like to discuss some of the most important intellectual-property (IP) treaties that govern IP. Generally, IP rights are territorial, which means that the owner of an IP right in one country or region must take affirmative steps to secure that right in the other country or region. Since the procedures to secure IP rights can vary from country to country, securing IP rights in multiple countries can become quite complicated (and expensive).

The first modern IP treaty is the Paris Convention. It was signed by 11 countries (Belgium, Brazil, El Salvador, France Guatemala, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Spain and Switzerland) in 1883. Great Britain, Tunis and Ecuador joined the treaty by the time that it was in effect in 1884. The United States joined in 1887. The total number of contracting parties stands at 177 at this time.

The Paris Convention applies to many different types of IP, including patents, trademarks, industrial designs, utility models, service marks, trade names, geographical indications and the repression of unfair competition. The primary objective of the treaty is to guarantee that citizens of the member countries have the basic right to protect their IP in other countries.

The Paris Convention also created a “right to priority.” This right of priority provides an applicant for IP protection in a member country with the ability to wait for a set period of time before seeking protection in the other member countries. For patent protection, the period is one year, so that the applicant for a patent in the U.S. can wait up to one year before seek patent protection in another country.

A subsequent treaty, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, increased the period of time to up to 2.5 years, so that the Paris Convention right of priority is not as important for countries that are parties to the Patent Cooperation Treaty. However, the Paris Convention right of priority is important in some countries, most notably Taiwan, that have not joined the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

Another important aspect of the Paris Convention treaty is the establishment for temporary protection for inventions that are exhibited at certain international exhibitions.