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Patent Cooperation Treaty
The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) provides a unified procedure for filing patent applications to protect inventions worldwide, or more precisely in about 125 countries. A single filing results in a single search accompanied with a written opinion (and optionally a preliminary examination), after which the examination (if provided by national law) and grant procedures are handled by the relevant national or regional authorities. The PCT does not lead to the grant of an "international patent", which does not exist.
The Patent Cooperation Treaty was signed in Washington on June 19, 1970, and entered into force on January 21, 1978 initially with 18 Contracting States. The first international applications were filed on June 1, 1978. The Treaty was subsequently amended in 1979, and modified in 1984 and 2001.
Any Contracting State to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property can become a member of the PCT.
A majority of the world's countries are signatories to the PCT, including all of the major industrialised countries (except Argentina for instance). As for January 2005, 125 countries were party to the PCT.
The main advantages of the PCT procedure (or international procedure) are the possibility to delay as much as possible the national or regional procedures, and the respective fees and translation costs, and the unified filing procedure.
The first step of the procedure consists in filing an international (patent) application with a suitable patent office, called the Receiving Office. This application is usually called an international application since it does not result in an international patent nor in a PCT patent (which do not exist). The international application needs to be filed in one language only. At least one applicant (either a physical or legal person) must be a national or resident of a Contracting State to the PCT, otherwise no international filing date is accorded.
On filing of the international application, all Contracting States are automatically designated2.
A search or international search is then made by an authorised International Searching Authority (ISA) to find out the most relevant prior art documents regarding the claimed subject-matter. This results in an International Search Report (ISR) comprising a written opinion3 regarding patentability. The ISR is normally provided by the ISA to the applicant 9 months after filing of the application in the event of a first filing and 16 months after the priority date in the event of a subsequent filing (i.e. claiming the priority of a first filing).
18 months after the filing date or the priority date if any, the international application is published by the International Bureau (IB) of WIPO, based at Geneva, Switzerland, in one of the seven "languages of publication": Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish (Rule 48.3 PCT ).
Afterwards, a international preliminary examination may optionally be requested ("demanded"). The "international examination" is achieved by an authorized International Preliminary Examination Authority (IPEA). This results in an International Preliminary Examination Report (IPER). When an examination is demanded, the contracting states for which the examination is demanded are called Elected Offices (under Chapter II), otherwise they are called Designated Offices (under Chapter I).
National and regional phases
Finally, at 30 months4 from the filing date of the international application or from the priority date if any, the international phase ends and the international application enters in national or regional phase.
- European Patent Organisation (EPO)
- Eurasian Patent Organization (EAPO)
- Intellectual Property
- Patent Law Treaty (PLT)
- Software patents under the Patent Cooperation Treaty
- Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT)
- World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)
- Applicable as from January 1, 2004.
- Note 2: Germany, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation can be excluded from this all-inclusive designation.
- Note 3: The written opinion is only established by the International Searching Authority (ISA) for international applications filed on or after January 1, 2004.
- Note 4: The 30-month time limit to enter the national phase is not applicable to all countries. A small number of countries still request the entering of the national phase under Chapter I (i.e. if the preliminary examination is not demanded or not demanded in time) at 20 month.
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