Patent Law Treaty: What Is It?

The Patent Law Treaty (PLT) is an international agreement used in the how to patent an idea process to simplify the formalities associated with patent application procedures in multiple countries. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) adopted the PLT on June 1, 2000.

The treaty began in the United States on April 28, 2005. The PLT was approved by the U.S. Senate in 2007. U.S. patent law was updated to reflect the PLT changes in 2012 and became known as the Patent Law Treaty Implementation Act, or PLT Act.

Why Is the Patent Law Treaty Important?

The PLT is extremely important to patent holders, since it makes it easier to apply for and hold patents in the U.S. and in other countries. The simpler requirements make it easier for applicants to receive and apply for patents in multiple countries.

The PLT sets a limit on how complicated an application process can be. The PLT sets down the most intensive requirements for a patent application. This means applicants know the maximum requirements possible. Member countries cannot require more, but they can require less.

The PLT:

  • Makes it easier to receive a filing date for a patent application
  • Reduces the requirements for a patent application
  • Gives a framework for digital patent applications

Implementing the Patent Law Treaty Act

To implement the PLT, the United States must make changes to the existing patent law. The PLT Act has two stages, the Hague Agreement Concerning International Registration of Industrial Designs, or Hague Design Treaty, and the Patent Law Treaty.

The major goal of implementing the PLT Act is to better align U.S. patent law with other patent laws around the world.

The Hague Design Treaty

This part of the PLT Act allows a person to file one design application in the United States and request patent registration in treaty countries. This makes it simpler to receive international design patents. This also aligns with other U.S. patent laws, such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which allows for a similar procedure for utility patents.

Being allowed to submit one application and request patents from multiple countries makes the process of getting an international patent easier. The Hague Treaty currently has 60 members. This includes many European countries and the European Union.

Applicants save time and money on multiple fees because they can apply for examination by multiple countries in one application.

The Hague Design Treaty includes these changes:

  • Allows for a single filing with the U.S. Patent Office instead of many international filings
  • Applicant can designate contracting parties or other treaty countries in which they would like to have a design patent
  • Applicants can claim priority to or from an international design patent application
  • The design patent application must be judged through existing patent laws, unless otherwise noted by the Hague Design Treaty
  • Extends the design patent terms to 15 years
  • Provisional rights are expanded to include the ability to obtain royalties that occur before the patent is issued

The Patent Law Treaty

The changes that are implemented in the second part of the PLT Act affect how to get and keep patents. This includes application fees, filing, surcharges, and recording of ownership change.

The changes are as follows:

  1. The 12-month period for filing a nonprovisional application that claims the benefit of a foreign-filed application may be extended by two months if the delay was unintentional.
  2. The 12-month period for filing a nonprovisional application that claims the benefit of a provisional application may be extended by two months if the delay was unintentional.
  3. An application will be abandoned if the applicant doesn't submit one or more claims, pay the required fee, or submit an oath, though nonprovisional applications need not include claims, fee, or oath to receive a filing date.
  4. A fee is not required for a provisional application to receive a filing date, but the application will be abandoned if the fee is not paid.

Patent Law Treaty Changes Explained

The changes that have been made to the PLT can be broken down into four major categories:

  1. Changes to application filing dates
  2. Changes to reviewing abandoned applications and accepting late maintenance fee payments
  3. Changes restoring the right of priority application to a foreign application or the benefit of a provisional application
  4. Requirement that an application must be seen within eight months of filing or it will lose the term adjustment

Filing Date

The changes in this section are meant to protect an application from being denied a filing date due to a technical problem. The change means a claim is not required for a nonprovisional application to get a filing date. It also makes the filing date the date the application was received.

Filing by Reference

With the new changes, an applicant can now file a nonprovisional application by reference to a previously filed application. This would replace the filing of specification and drawings.

This provision also says the applicant has three months from the filing date to submit the specifications and drawings, an English translation of the previously filed application, and the application fee.

Revival

Changes will also be made to how abandoned applications may be revived and how late maintenance fees may be paid. The acceptance of such things has been changed from proving unavoidable delay to the basis of unintentional delay.

This means an applicant may file a petition stating the late fee payment was unintentional and therefore the abandoned application should be reexamined.

The PLT also provides procedures to help applicants avoid unintentional loss of rights. Loss of rights can extend from formality and time requirements. This means patent offices must notify applicants of time limit extensions, extended processing, and restrictions on patent invalidation.

Right of Priority Is Restored

This change deals with the ability for applicants to have the right of priority restored. The right of priority can be restored if the delay in filing the application was unintentional.

This rule change applies to applications claiming the benefit of a prior foreign applications and applications claiming benefit of a prior provisional application. Both applications have a 12-month period for filing.

To restore the right of priority, a petition must be filed at least two months before the 12-month period ends. The application to restore the right of priority must include a specific reference to the provisional application, a petition fee, and a statement that the delay was unintentional.

Patent Term Adjustment Is Reduced

This adjustment changes the amount of time allowed between the patent filing date and examination. A patent must be ready for examination eight months after it is filed.

To be ready for examination, a patent application must include:

  • Specification, including one or more claims and an abstract
  • Papers
  • Drawings
  • English translations
  • Sequence listing compliance
  • Inventor's oath or declaration
  • Basic filing fee
  • Certified copy of previously filed application
  • Application size fee

Application Standardization

When all PLT changes are examined as a whole, the change that becomes obvious is that the application has been simplified. By creating forms and specific maximum requirements, the PLT has made applying for a patent much easier.

The PLT also standardized the Model International Forms. These forms must be accepted by all patent offices. The standardization of forms makes it simpler to apply for patents internationally.

The standardization of the PLT has also simplified procedures, which has brought about a reduction in cost for applicants and patent offices. Some procedures which have been simplified are: mandatory representation, providing evidence systematically, and submission of a copy of previous applications with a translation.

The PLT helped to make electronic filing available in every patent office. Paper filing was to be made available at the same time. The option for paper filing could have been removed on June 2, 2005. Some patent offices only use electronic filing.

Patent offices must still accept paper communication from applicants. Applicants must file electronically, but they can use paper communication to ask about obtaining a filing date and time limits.

This part of the Patent Law Treaty also requires that industrialized nations support nonindustrialized nations and transitioning nations while they introduce electronic filing.

Negative of Patent Law Treaty

As with any changes made to laws, especially international laws, there are issues that have been brought up about the PLT.

Dark Side of International Standardization

With standardization comes ease and simplicity, but it also bring uniformity. The strict guidelines of the PLT create a barrier for many countries. The standardization of the PLT has been agreed to by the 60 member nations, which include the United States, the European Union, and many other European countries. This grouping is only a small percentage of the world.

This small group of countries has agreed to a specific set of rules for accepting patent applications. This leaves out any country that is not a member and countries that may not have the resources to accept and process patent applications in the way that is required by these standards.

For developing nations, this type of agreement may make it difficult to compete in the global economy. If patents are held on new technology and inventions only by developed nations, competition becomes more difficult for those who do not have the resources to compete.

Overworked and Overwhelmed

Many critics of the PLT have suggested that the U.S. patent system will be flooded with patents, overwhelming the system. The new legislation could complicate the system as the new rules are put into place and slowly understood.

The applications from domestic applicants will not be the only increase seen. Foreign applicants will also be very interested in seeking patents in the United States.

FAQs

  • How does the Patent Law Treaty benefit me?

If you're applying for a patent for a new product or invention, these changes make the application process easier. You can also now apply for patents in multiple countries with one application.

  • Which countries are part of the Patent Law Treaty?

There are 60 member nations. This includes the United States, the European Union, other European nations, and many more.

  • Can I apply for a patent in more than one country?

Yes! With just one application, one fee, and one examination, you may receive a patent in multiple countries.

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