Restrictions on the Filing of Patent Applications Abroad by United Kingdom Residents

This page provides information on the rules governing the filing of patent applications outside the UK by United Kingdom residents, and our approach to such applications.

When may a permit be required?

If a patent application having any UK resident applicants or inventors is to be filed outside the UK, it may be necessary to obtain a foreign filing permit from the UK Intellectual Property Office unless a patent application for the same invention was filed at the UK Intellectual Property Office more than six weeks previously. The patent application previously filed at the UK Intellectual Property Office may be a UK patent application, a European patent application or an International patent application.

If such a patent application has not been previously filed at the UK Intellectual Property Office, for example if the first filing is to be a US provisional application or a European patent application filed directly at the European Patent Office, then a foreign filing permit is required when the patent application contains information:

  • which relates to military technology; or
  • the publication of which might be prejudicial to national security; or
  • the publication of which might be prejudicial to the safety of the public.

It will usually be clear if the invention relates to military technology or contains information the publication of which might be prejudicial to national security. If, for example, the invention was made as a result of collaboration with the military or the Ministry of Defence (or one of its agencies), then a foreign filing permit should be applied for.

The UK Intellectual Property Office have explained that the term "prejudicial to the safety of the public" does not apply to inventions which may be used in an unsafe manner, or to inventions which could accidentally cause injury, and that for an invention to fall inside this prohibition the information will need to disclose an overt threat to public safety.

As the process of applying for a permit is relatively straightforward (see below), we advise applying in cases of doubt.

Applying for a permit

To make an application for a foreign filing permit on your behalf, we need details of any UK resident applicants or inventors and details of the invention. Usually the introduction and summary of invention will provide sufficient detail.

The application can be turned around in half a day, if necessary, and the process is extremely flexible.

This information is simplified and must not be taken as a definitive statement of the law or practice.