I'm new to patents and am a bit confused by the whole system. To my understanding a patent is applied at a federal level. Does this mean someone can go to France, see an invention that is patented their, find out how it works, and patent it in another country that doesn't have a patent for it yet? Do countries respect patents from other countries?

  • <comments removed> @DejfCold If you can answer authoritatively, you can post it below, but comments to not have the features needed to vet whatever you say here, so we do not allow users to guess in comments as some sort of unvetted, 2nd-rate answer. Sorry about the confusion. Oct 2, 2017 at 15:51

1 Answer 1


No, for two reasons.

First, if you are copying someone else's invention, then you are not an inventor. Only the inventors (or people who have been assigned the rights by the original inventors) are allowed to validly apply for a patent.

Second, an invention must be novel (among other things) in view of what's available across the world to receive a patent. But if you are copying something that already exists, then the invention would not be novel. Thus, if a product is available in one country, it cannot be patented anywhere in the world (excepting grace periods, which are a little outside the scope of the question).

That said, as a minor historical note, in countries which derive their patent law from the UK, there used to be the concept of invention-by-importation. If you were the first to import a product, and the product was novel for that country, you could receive a patent for it. However, this sort of thing hasn't been available for very many decades.

  • Then how does it work that something things can't be patented in some countries? For example in US most computer programs can't be patented but in China it's much easier. Does that mean someone from China can copy a computer program and patent it and they would be the only one who can now sell it?
    – Donttryit
    Oct 2, 2017 at 3:52
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    @Donttryit The point is that China would reject the application because it wasn't novel. Patent agencies look (or at least should look) worldwide for prior art.
    – Eric S
    Oct 2, 2017 at 13:59
  • As a historical note, the patent law from Venice which is considered one of the first or the fist modern patent law, had the concept that inventions needed to be new and inventive on a territorial basis too, allowing import inventions.
    – user18033
    Dec 31, 2017 at 11:42

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