International patent applications also known as PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) applications, allow a single international application to be filed which then serves as a basis to file patent applications into multiple countries. These countries include most of the main jurisdictions of economic interest such as the USA, Europe and China. However, there are some countries which are not part of the PCT.
PCT applications may be filed as first application or claim priority from an earlier filed provisional patent application. Once filed, the application undergoes an international search and opinion in which an indication of patentability is provided. Depending on the outcome of the search and opinion you may elect to make some amendments to your application and request a preliminary examination of your application.
Within 30 months (31 months for some countries) from the earliest priory date, usually the filing date of the provisional patent application, further patent applications are required to be filed in each country in which you wish to seek patent protection – this is called national phase entry. After national phase entry, each application usually proceeds as a separate complete patent application and is subject to the law of the individual country in which the application is filed.
There are a number of financial and strategic advantages and/or disadvantages to filing a PCT application. In particular, the government fees alone for filing a PCT application are now about $4,000 so it is important that all PCT applications are expertly prepared to ensure the application proceeds smoothly through the patent system. If you would like to know more, please feel free to contact us for further information.