The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is used by inventors and organisations to secure patent protection across the globe. Although there is no “world patent” available, the PCT does provide an avenue for a single, centralized, initial patent application to be filed and for a search and examination to be carried out. This reduces costs. Later the application can be filed into the 140-plus countries which are members of the PCT. The initial phase is referred to as the “international phase” while the term “national phase” is used to refer to the subsequent lodging of the application in the separate PCT member countries.
PCT international applications must be filed within the 12 months following the filing date of the priority patent application (the priority application could, for example, be an inventor’s first provisional patent application in their home country).
During the international phase, which lasts for two-and-a-half years from the priority filing date, applicants have an opportunity to amend their application in response to the International Search Report and International Preliminary Report on Patentability which are issued for all PCT applications. The international phase also offers applicants an opportunity to develop their IP strategy and to decide on the PCT countries and regions of interest to them for long-term patent protection.
At the two-and-a-half year deadline applicants must file national applications into each country and/or region of interest to them. Each local patent office has its own separate requirements regarding application formalities and language to be used when applying for protection under the PCT national phase.