Basically, patents are all national, just the ways to get patent for idea protection in multiple countries can be regional or international. Patents are enforced also in the national level. As the latest press releases say: "Apple, Samsung lose patent cases against each other in Germany", one can immediately notice and understand that courts are taking decisions only for a local patent and only for infringements made in the local market.
Once a patent application is filed in a single country (priority filing), within a certain period of time the patent application has to be 'copied' and validated in other selected countries. This is called patent extension or patent validation. Now there are several international or regional agreements, where participating countries agree to apply examination procedures only once, instead of searching and examining the patent in each country. This saves a lot of money for the applicants.
International Patent Application
184 countries have signed a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which simplifies examination procedures and extends validation term up to 30-32 months. It is important to remember that PCT application is not a patent - no certificate is issued at the end of examination procedures, just a search report provided by one of the major patent examining offices, selected by the applicant. Positive search report and expert opinion allows validation in selected countries, while negative search results give two options: to withdraw or edit the patent description in order to eliminate drawbacks and overlapping with other patents.
The worldwide patent system is explained in the Prezi below. Idea Protection team is always open for questions. We will gladly complement the presentation or the post.