Tuesday, 26 February 2019

How Do Patents Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Work?

Written by Kayal Manamohan

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The PCT is a patent system which aims to help applicants protect their patent internationally. There are 152 contracting states to the treaty which means filing one application will simultaneously grant protection in many locations.

Is a PCT Application Right for You?

It is important to ensure that you will benefit from filing a patent under the PCT. Before going through the lengthy application process, conduct research about the existing patents in the counties you are seeking protection. There are online databases available, but a Patent Lawyer will be able to assist you with this.

Where Do I Start?

The cheapest method to apply is using ePCT which is an electronic application system. Once the application is complete, the Receiving Office will issue you an International Search Report (ISR) and a written opinion. This will give you an idea about the potential your application has and how likely it is to receive a patent. The written opinion takes into account how new and practical your product is. There will also be an analysis about the ‘inventive step’ in your application and how it compares to existing inventions. You will receive this report within 3 months of the PCT application or 9 months from the earliest priority date, whichever is later. You are welcome to modify your application in accordance with the opinion in the report. If you do not have amendments, the ISR and written opinion will be made public at the 18-month point from your initial filing date.

After two more optional steps in which your application goes through further analysis, the PCT procedure comes to an end. At this point, you can enter the national phase which involves paying national fees and filing translations of the application. It is then up to the regional patent Offices to determine whether they will grant you a patent. The reports given throughout the PCT process will assist the regional patent Offices during this assessment.

Why is it Better to go Through the PCT?

By having a system unifying multiple counties, the PCT ultimately makes it easier to access the relevant regional patent Offices. The reports provide regular checkpoints for applicants to improve on their patents and streamlines the information collection process. The written opinions ensure that all possible weaknesses are addressed before the application reaches the regional patent Offices.

In summary, the PCT is a guided process which ensures applicants are able to seek protection in multiple countries at once. The review system works to present a version of the application that will have the greatest chance of approval in the national phase.

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