The PCT national phase application is a one-time submission to apply for a patent through member states of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). This streamlined process provides patent protection while adhering to each nation's individual requirements. It's backdated to the original date of filing.

How Can I Protect My Invention in Multiple Countries?

A patent is good in one country. If you want protection in other countries, however, you do have options. Using the Direct or Paris route, you can file individual applications through each country in which you would like a patent. If you have already filed in a country that is a Member State of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, then you have a one-year window from your original application filing date to do so. Each country with which you apply will honor the initial filing date.

You can also go the PCT route. Simply file an application directly through the initial country or within the one-year window allowed by the Paris Convention. Each of the contracting states will recognize that application.

What Is the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)?

More than 150 countries have signed the patent cooperation treaty. This treaty allows you to file simultaneously in many countries with one application versus with multiple national patent applications. The national offices still decide whether to grant the application during the "national phase."

The PCT is typically used by:

  • Large corporations
  • Universities
  • Individual investors

You must be a national or resident of a member country to file an international patent application. However, the application itself does not guarantee an international patent. In fact, this doesn't exist. Your application must enter the "national phase" to receive a patent in other countries.

PCT phases include:

  • International Phase: File the international application.
  • National Phase: Send the international application to other countries for evaluation under local patent laws.

An expensive process, the PCT route is generally more popular with large multinational corporations that regularly seek patents in many countries. It is also useful for entities with clearly identified global needs and/or international markets for a product. This process is rarely necessary for individual investors.

PCT Filing

First, file with a national patent office and meet all the formal PCT requirements. Submit the application in an approved language, and pay the appropriate fees. This filing is the same as applying to all PCT contracting states. If you have met the formality requirements, you will not have to adapt to the different national formalities.

Other filing details include:

  • Only one applicant must be listed on the application.
  • The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), national patent offices, and the International Bureau all accept the international patent application and are designated PCT "receiving offices."
  • In most cases, the application is filed electronically. WIPO software and web services can help validate and prepare your documents.
  • Fees include the international filing fee, a search fee, and a nominal transmittal fee.

The processing time will differ between countries, as each is evaluating your application based on its laws, practices, and regulations.

PCT International Search

To find out if your invention is patentable in PCT contracting states, an International Search Authority (ISA), as well as the national office, will evaluate your patent application. All international applications will be subject to the International Search, the results of which are closed for 18 months. During this time, you can make amendments to your application as well as meet with the ISA to discuss its findings.

PCT International Publication

Eighteen months after the first date of filing, the application and the International Search results will be published. You can find PCT applications on PATENTSCOPE, a searchable database with language and search tools. You can withdraw the application before this time if you do not want to publicize the application details or ISA commentary.

PCT National Phase

Once the PCT process is complete, and 30 months after the initial filing, you can apply for patents directly through the countries of your choice. You must meet each one's individual requirements, pay its fees, and file application translations, if applicable. The national offices decide whether to approve your patent. Their decision is made easier by having the international search and preliminary report already completed.

Where Can I Find Out More About PCT?

The PCT's Applicant's Guide, the PCT Newsletter, and PCT Highlights are online in multiple languages. To file an international patent application, speak with an experienced patent attorney or your regional patent office.

If you need help with the a PCT national phase application, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.