One of the most frequently asked (and expensive) questions facing a patent attorney is where in the world to seek patent protection on an invention. This article attempts to answer that question by considering three primary issues for developing a prioritization process, by discussing recently observed trends in foreign filing practice and by suggesting a tiered approach for determining where in the world to file a patent application. Although this article will focus on the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, many of the factors will be the same in electronics and software.

The most comprehensive starting point for determining a foreign filing strategy considers every country in the world as a potential country in which to obtain patent protection. However, this position is quite extreme and ultimately untenable in terms of both monetary and human resources. Instead, patent counsel should develop a prioritized list of countries that takes legal, business and cost considerations into account.

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