Quite awhile back I came up with an invention, or I read about it somewhere even longer ago and didn't come up with it myself. At any rate it's already in production in the form of a toy in Japan.

After looking around a bit I can't find any patent covering this invention. Can I still patent it for my own commercial use? How about a Dutch patent, EU or worldwide?

What I'm really asking is whether prior art by a company in some country also provides protection for them abroad.

Let's say I do get a worldwide patent, could the Japanese company in question just ignore it and sell any product based on the invention in Japan alone, or even worldwide?

I used Espacenet but I'm not very skilled at searching for patents. In addition to that the tool uses machine translation which isn't perfect yet.


1 Answer 1


This is simple. You can't patent something that already exists and is publicly known. You can't patent anything you didn't invent either. The existence of a product in Japan is prior art for the rest of the world and would keep you or anyone else from obtaining a patent anywhere in the world.

Second, there are no world wide patents. Patents are issued country by country. A patent in a country protects an invention from someone else manufacturing, selling or using an invention in that specific country. Assuming there isn't a comparable patent in your country, you could use, manufacture or sell the same product in your country. If there really were no patents you could make and sell your product anywhere, but you couldn't prevent others from doing likewise.

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