Patent protection grants an individual, organization, research institution, etc. the legal rights over their invention. It lets inventor claim his invention exclusively and prevents competitors from using his invention on their name. However, patent protection is area specific, i.e. you get patent grant only in the country under which you file its patent application. Thus, you need to go for international patent protection filing, if you want to secure your patent in multiple countries. But do you know, “what is a PCT patent application?” It is one of the most important methods that you need to comply with to get international patent protection.
PCT patent applications are those that comply with, PATENT CORPORATION TREATY (PCT). So, if you don’t know about PCT applications and how they are important in foreign patent filing, don’t worry. This article will explain you everything you can know about such applications. So keep reading till end.
PCT Applications: Introduction
In international patent filings, you file the same patent application in different countries at different time intervals. Thus, it becomes difficult to understand the filing date of your application. So, your application may be deemed as existing prior art, since there is no clear priority date. Also you have already filed your application in some other country. Hence the patent office of other countries may refuse to grant it a patent. This is where the Patent Corporation Treaty (PCT) protects you.
Filing applications under PCT patent application grants a priority or filing date to your patent application. PCT treaty that came into existence in 1970 is a legal agreement between various countries signed in front of WIPO. The very purpose of its origin was to make initial filing process come in streamline. Hence, it makes the international patent filings easier and cheaper for the inventor.
So the moment you file the patent application under PCT in any of the binding countries, the filing date is will be same for all the countries. Means, no matter where you file the patent application, every signing country will accept that date as first filing date. Hence, you can any time file your patent application in any other countries but up to till 12 months only from the date of first of filing. And that first filing date is the original filing date accepted by all the signatory countries.
To conclude, you can understand it as, PCT applications automatically design a filing date to all the member countries. And the effect of foreign application will be same in each member country as if a national patent application has in its own country.
How to file patent applications under PCT?
PCT is an international treaty to grant patents in multiple countries. Thus it has its own rules and procedures also for doing so. Some of these rules are mandatory to follow, while some are optional. Mandatory one includes filing of the application, international search, international publication, and national phase, etc. The optional ones are supplementary international search and international preliminary examination, etc.
You can file the patent application either at your regional patent office or in the country of your choice or directly with the WIPO. But immediately after filing, the International Search Authority (ISA) examines your application. It examines on the basis that, whether your invention is patentable or not. Once the examination is over, it publishes your patent application in international journals to aware whole world about it. This also invites oppositions from all over the world if any on your patent application.
So following steps tell you the process that you need to go through if you want to acquire the foreign patent grant. First two steps you have already read above, so may skip it and move to third:
Filing of Application:
For international patent filing, you can file the application either at your regional patent office or in the country of your choice or directly with the WIPO. And also comply with the PCT requirements, i.e. in one language, and fees. Further, you need to file the application in all other PCT member countries of your choice within 12 months after the first filing.
International Search Authority to Examine:
But immediately after filing, the International Search Authority (ISA) examines your application. It examines on the basis that, whether your invention is patentable or not. It issues a written report regarding your inventions patentability. Time limit to do so is within 16 months from first filing date.
Publishing in International Journals:
Once the examination is over, it publishes your patent application in international journals to aware whole world about it. This also invites oppositions from all over the world if any on your patent application. The publishing must be done, within 18 months from the first filing date of application.
Once the PCT application procedure ends, which is usually 30 months from the first filing date of your application. It is also the date from which you claim priority. You can then obtain your grant directly from the national (or regional) patent offices of the country in which you want patent.
Thus the examination and publication steps are all the responsibilities of international authority. But the granting of patents remains under the control of the national or regional patent Offices. This is called as the “national phase”.
All the above Four steps are mandatory in your journey to get international patent grant under PCT application. Following below, are optional steps that may be incorporated during this journey:
Supplementary International Search (optional):
A second ISA identifies, at your request, published documents that may not have been found by the first ISA which carried out the main search. It is because of the diversity of prior art in different languages and different technical fields. This has to be published within 22 months from filing the application in the home country.
International Preliminary Examination (optional):
One of the ISAs at your request carries out an additional patentability analysis, usually on an amended version of your application. They need to publish it within 28 months from filing the application in the home country.
What is the cost of a PCT Application?
If you are going to file patent under PCT application, you need to pay for following three types of fees:
- An International Patent filing fee
- Search fee to be given to ISA
- Transmittal fee varying from different receiving offices. It is very small in amount.
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