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Imagine there’s an inventor named Emily. She had this brilliant invention and decided to file patents in different countries, one by one. It was quite a hassle, dealing with paperwork, legal fees, and translations, which left her quite frustrated.

Little did Emily know about the PCT, an international agreement that simplifies the patent application process. With a single PCT application, she could have saved time and money while ensuring global patent protection. The PCT could have made Emily’s life as an inventor a lot more efficient and cost-effective.

What is the Patent Cooperation Treaty?

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) (1978), is an international agreement that simplifies the process of seeking international patent protection. It enables inventors to submit a single international patent application through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), covering multiple member countries at once. You can file this application at a competent receiving office, like the Indian Patent Office, and select the PCT member countries you want to file an application in your Designated States.

Without the PCT, you’d need to file separate patent applications for each member country of interest, which can be quite burdensome. The PCT streamlines the procedure, making it efficient and convenient for inventors by allowing them to submit a single international patent application, provided the desired countries are part of the PCT.

As of November 2023[1] over 150 countries have become signatories to the PCT. This international agreement serves to streamline the global patent protection system. However, it is important to realise that the decision made by the patent offices in each nation or area ultimately determines whether or not a patent is granted.

How to file a PCT?

Let us guide you through the steps of filing a PCT application:

  1. Prepare a Detailed Description of your Invention:

The first step involves creating a detailed description of the invention, which may include accompanying drawings if relevant. It’s crucial to ensure that this description aligns with the patentability criteria, encompassing novelty, inventive step, and industrial applicability.

In India, Sections 2(ac), 2(j), and 3 of the Patents Act, 1970 define the criteria capable of industrial application and invention and which inventions are not patentable, respectively.

  1. Choose a Receiving Office:

Determine the national or regional patent office where you want to file your PCT application. This office is known as the “Receiving Office.” In India, the Indian Patent Office functions as the Receiving Office for applications submitted under the provisions of the PCT.

  1. Complete the Application Form:

Fill out the application form provided by your chosen Receiving Office. Ensure that you cover the required filing fees and any supplemental charges relevant to the member states you’re aiming for. It’s crucial to submit your PCT application within 12 months of filing a national application.

  1. International Search:

The next step involves an international search conducted by a designated International Searching Authority (ISA). The ISA will identify prior art and provide a written opinion on patentability. The International Search Report (ISR) will provide a search report with a written opinion within 16 months from the filing date.

  1. Publication:

The user’s application is initially kept confidential after submitting the required documents, and it becomes publicly available 18 months later when the International Bureau (IB) of WIPO publishes the PCT application.

  1. Choose Designated Offices:

Within 30 months (or 31 months in some cases) from the priority date, select the countries where you want to pursue patent protection. These countries are known as “Designated Offices.”

Optional Steps:

  1. Post-publication, you can file a request for an International Preliminary Examination (IPE) i.e. additional searching 19 months before the priority date.
  2. The IPE is optional but highly recommended. It provides an in-depth analysis of the patentability of the invention and allows you to make amendments if necessary.
  3. Search authority responsible for patent evaluations will provide an International Preliminary Report on whether a patent can be granted or not. This report is issued within 28 months. After which, you must proceed with National Phase filing.

Advantages of PCT

  • Global Reach: PCT offers inventors to pursue patent protection across more than 150 member countries through a single, comprehensive application. It’s akin to submitting one all-encompassing document that extends your coverage to a wide array of jurisdictions, simplifying the patent application process.
  • Cost-Efficiency: Securing patents across multiple international jurisdictions can pose a significant financial burden. The PCT provides an expedient solution, streamlining the process and mitigating expenses associated with translation, filing fees, and administrative complexities. In essence, it represents a cost-effective avenue to obtain global patent protection.
  • Time-Saver: The PCT framework offers a significant advantage in the innovation landscape, granting a 30-month window for critical decisions regarding patent decisions. This extended duration facilitates thorough strategic planning and in-depth market analysis.
  • Search and Examination: The PCT system offers a comprehensive international search and examination process, aiding inventors in the early assessment of their invention’s patentability.
  • Visibility and Deterrence: Utilizing the PCT offers the advantage of international publication for your invention. This publication can discourage potential imitators, as it makes your pending patent application visible to the public. In essence, the PCT serves as a prominent “Do Not Enter” sign around your innovative work.

In a nutshell, the Patent Cooperation Treaty stands as a crucial asset for inventors, revolutionizing the intricate process of pursuing international patent protection. By allowing inventors to consolidate their efforts into a single international patent application that spans multiple member countries, the PCT not only simplifies the procedure but also offers a cost-effective solution. With its thorough search and examination process, it provides inventors with early insights into the patentability of their creations. Additionally, the PCT’s international publication feature acts as a shield against potential infringements, effectively safeguarding innovative work in an increasingly borderless world of innovation.

[1] WIPO, https://www.wipo.int/pct/en/pct_contracting_states.html** (last visited Nov.4, 2023).

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