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PCT Applications

Posted Friday, March 2, 2012 by Mike Cicero

It may be desirable to obtain patent protection for an invention in multiple countries where it will be practiced, marketed, or manufactured. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the process it is not always possible for an applicant to know in which countries patent protection will ultimately be desired. Additionally, even if these countries were identifiable, the costs of creating and filing patent applications for could be prohibitively expensive for some applicants. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) provides patent applicants with a process that can be used to mitigate these difficulties by filing a single “international application” which is recognized as a regular national filing in all (approximately 144) member countries of the PCT.

The international application is filed in a standardized format at one of many Receiving Offices, including the U.S. Office. Once it is filed the applicant has entered the international phase of the PCT procedure. During the international phase, an International Search Authority will conduct and an international patentability search and issue a report of the results. The applicant also has the ability to request an optional international preliminary examination, after which a second report will be issued titled “International Preliminary Report on Patentability.” These reports assist the regional offices of each country when they conduct their own examinations.

Even though there is an international application, there is no such thing as an international patent. Instead, the applicant must actually seek patent protection in each country that protection is desirable by entering the second phase of the PCT process known as the national phase. Typically, as in the U.S., this must be done prior to the expiration of 30 months from the international filing date (or the priority date claimed by the international application). Once in the national phase, an application is entitled to the priority date of its corresponding international application.

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