US filers are very familiar with the requirement that if an invention is made in the US, the applicant may only file a patent application on that invention in a non-US country if the applicant has obtained an FFL (foreign filing license) from the USPTO.
From time to time the question will arise what if the invention is jointly made by people in some country outside the US and people in the US? Each country has laws about where you can file first and what you must do before you can file elsewhere.
The nice folks at WIPO have developed a handy web page that summarizes FFL requirements around the world.
This web page at WIPO’s web site does not, of course, give legal advice as to how to deal with complicated problems where some of the inventors are in one country and some of the inventors are in a different country. I can describe some of the approaches that some practitioners use to try to solve these problems.
For example. Invention made by people in China and people in the US. One approach that some practitioners use is to apply for a faxed foreign filing license (“FFFL”) from the USPTO. Once you have the FFFL, file in China. Eventually the Chinese patent office will grant an FFL in China. At that point, file the US patent application, claiming priority from the Chinese application.
But it is easy to devise fact patterns where there seems to be no way to proceed without someone being at risk of getting into trouble. Particularly vexing is the fact pattern where one of the joint inventors is in Russia and another is in the US.
The hapless practitioner who has struggled with such fact patterns might throw up his or her hands and simply instruct the inventors to never do any inventing except when located on ships in the ocean beyond the territorial limit of any country.
What complicated fact patterns have you run into? How did you solve them? Please post a comment about this.