Say I have a device I wish to sell to airlines. This device provides incredible value for commercial flights, and I'd like to start a business selling it. I have a problem. Where do I patent my device, when given the information in the patent, anyone can recreate and manufacture the same device in a country that doesn't conform to the same intellectual property standards, and then compete with me by selling my device to those same airlines?

Commercial aviation is perhaps the most international industry in existence, with the possible exception of shipping, so how could I ever make a device for the commercial aviation industry without fear of being outcompeted by copies outside the jurisdiction of my patent protection?

2 Answers 2


First, even if your competitor is operating outside the jurisdiction of your patents, you also have protection from the use and import of the infringing products, not just the manufacture and sale. For example, if you have a US patent, your patent would allow you to sue airlines using your product in the US (e.g., flying into, out of, and/or within the US), even if they bought the product from a foreign competitor. Suing potential customers isn't as attractive as suing your competitors, but at least you would have that option.

Further, it is possible to apply for a patent in multiple countries (e.g., through the PCT process), although it can get expensive to try to obtain protection in a large number of countries. You can try to target the main jurisdictions in which your product would be made, sold, or used. For example, you could apply in the US, China, and various European countries (through the EPO).


Keep in mind that in a well developed international market, like an airline or airplane manufacturing company, there are not very many countries where the key multinational companies are headquartered and that most of the multinational companies need to be able to do business in the countries where most of the multinationals in the industry are headquartered.

Ultimately, a patent infringement suit is brought against a company, so if that multinational company wants to do business seamlessly, it need to be in compliance with the law everywhere it does business.

The real international threat to IP disregard is not from countries with robust international trade, but from industries and countries where external lawful trade is not very important. But, those places tend to be far less economically important.

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