In this ever-globalizing market a patent for the UK alone is less and less likely to be sufficient to secure an adequate return for all the risk, energy and effort expended on the development and marketing of an invention. There is no such thing as a world patent or even an EC patent as yet -though it is possible to apply to the European Patent Office in Munich for European patents that are national patents for one or more European states granted by the EPO under the European Patent Convention - but it is possible to make an application to several national patent offices at once through a single application.
The agreement that makes such an application possible is the Patent Cooperation Treaty or PCT. This is a complex multilateral agreement which requires quite a bit of background knowledge to follow properly. Fortunately, the WIPO (the UN agency responsible for international IPR co-ordination) has produced an excellent FAQ to this instrument. Further details are available on our other blog at "Patents: WIPO publishes FAQ on PCT."