If you’re eager to secure a patent, chances are you’ll want to protect your idea in more than one nation, if not all over the globe. There is, however, no such thing as an international patent application. A Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application is the closest thing – and what most people think of as an international patent application. Currently, 150 nations, including the United States, are involved.
Filing a PCT application is an excellent approach to speed up the process. You submit a single application and then prosecute it in several countries (i.e., follow up with the applicable patent offices). However, keep in mind that you may need to revise your application to ensure that it fits with the standards established by each country’s patent office – for example, by supplying translations.
Where Should I File?
Certain nations have reception offices (RO) where PCT applications are lodged. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) acts as a RO for patent applicants who live in the United States or are residents of the United States. If neither of these conditions apply, you must file in another RO where you are eligible. Canadian applicants, for example, who live in Canada, are qualified to submit with the Canadian Patent Office.
How Does It Work?
PCT applications go through two steps once they are filed:
1.) The International Platform
An International Searching Authority (ISA) performs a search and offers a nonbinding opinion on the patentability of a PCT application at the international stage. You may also request one or more supplemental searches, which broaden the scope and enhance the possibility of discovering relevant prior art (proof that your idea is previously known).
2.) The National Level
If you decide to continue with the international procedure, you must participate in the national stage. This includes paying national fees, for example, and you must apply within a certain time frame. If you submit a provisional patent application in the United States, you must reach the national stage (e.g., file a non-provisional patent application in the United States) within 30 months after the provisional patent application’s filing date.
This implies that submitting a PCT application buys applicants with ongoing provisional patent applications a lot of time. If you have previously submitted a non-provisional patent application, you must file a PCT application within 12 months after the non-provisional patent application’s filing date.
An Alternative to Filing a PCT Application
If you do not wish to submit a PCT application, you must apply for a patent in each nation where you desire protection (often a costly proposition). If you’ve submitted a provisional patent application, you’ll have 12 months from the date of filing to file both the non-provisional patent application and overseas applications. Most nations prohibit applicants from applying after the 12-month period has expired. In other words, the non-PCT option takes less time.