What is a PCT Application?
As a patent application is a national monopoly right, it’s necessary to obtain a patent in every country of interest. You can file an ‘international patent application’ (PCT application), which is a single application covering over 150 countries.
PCT applications are made possible by the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which is an international agreement administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and covers most of the major industrial countries of the world.
The PCT application remains as a single application. But has to be split into separate patent applications. This would cover the countries of desired patent protection at a certain stage, known as the National Phase or Regional Phase in regions. Such as, European countries party to the European Patent Convention. This phase begins up to 2.5 years after the original patent application was filed. Essentially, an additional 18 months for the applicant to explore the commercial potential of their product in various countries. As well as, to decide where to seek patent protection. Direct national filing allows the applicant to file separate national patent applications in the countries of interest up to 12 months after the first application.
Filing and Requirements
The PCT application is subject to an international search and an International Search Report (ISR) being issued. As well as a Written Opinion of the International Searching Authority (ISA) on the patentability of the invention.
The ISR may include documents considered to be relevant for novelty and inventiveness of the invention. The Written Opinion of the ISA is an initial opinion on the core patentability requirements: novelty, inventiveness and industrial applicability. This will help the applicant evaluate the chances for the grants of the national patents with substantial costs being postponed.
The requirements for entering the National/Regional Phase are different for each country/region. This usually involves appointing a foreign attorney as your representative, filing a few formal documents, paying certain official fees, and submitting a translation of the application into a local official language if necessary. It may also be necessary to obtain certain formal documents, signed by the applicants and the inventors.
Benefits and Disadvantages of a PCT Application
Benefits include delayed filing and translation costs for individual countries and centralised search and examination.
Disadvantages include the overall costs being higher and a longer period to get patents granted.
Whilst the PCT is a helpful tool, it may not be the right strategy for all applicants. For example, as you approach the 12-month deadline from your initial patent filing, you might realize that you wish to seek patent protection in only one or two other foreign countries. If you are certain that you do not want to reserve the option to file in additional countries, then you can simply choose to file direct applications in your desired countries by the one-year anniversary.
At Avidity IP, we are more than happy to consult with you to formulate a strategy that meets your commercial needs.