How long is the term of patent protection?
The TRIPS Agreement stipulates that patents should be protected for at least 20 years and industrial designs for at least 10 years. The 20-year term for patents begins from the date of filing the application, not from the date of the patent grant. However, the patent application process may take several years, and if it takes too long, the term of protection will be reduced. For instance, if the patent application process takes eight years, the patent holder will only have 12 years of protection left.
Patents may expire before their official expiration dates due to the annual fees that must be paid to maintain them. The fee amount usually increases each year, and patent holders may choose to abandon their patents if they are of little value to them or if they cannot afford to pay the fees. In China, for example, the annual fee for an invention patent starts at CNY 900 and increases up to CNY 8,000 over the 20-year period. Failure to pay the annual fee may result in patent abandonment, but patent holders may also choose to abandon their patents voluntarily by declaring a waiver.