A PCT provisional application is an early application for a patent with the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

What Is a PCT Patent Application?

Patent applications submitted through the PCT are protected through a patent with international coverage. Provisional patent applications provide the patent with an earlier filing date, but the non-provisional patent application must be submitted within a year of the provisional application in order for the coverage to take place.

PCT provisional patent applications can establish a 30-month filing date or can lengthen an earlier filing date for 30 months. If a non-provisional patent application is later filed, the provisional PCT application date can be used instead of the later date as long as the provisional application doesn't expire.

Provisional PCT patent applications cannot grant actual patent IP rights, but they basically hold the place of the patent until the non-provisional application is ready. The only way a provisional PCT patent application works is if it is later converted into a non-provisional application in each of the regions or countries in which the patent owner wants to be protected.

What Is a Patent Cooperation Treaty?

The PCT, or Patent Cooperation Treaty, helps patent owners gain coverage internationally. If an inventor hopes to patent his invention in more than four different countries, he will benefit from filing a PCT application. Even if the inventor hasn't decided exactly where he plans to need IP coverage, he can use the PCT application to make sure he has it once he decides.

There are 152 regions, states, and countries currently participating in the PCT, as of the summer of 2017. The European Patent Office covers many countries in Europe but just counts as one region within the treaty. Countries are added to the PCT regularly, but most of the major countries have already signed it.

How to File a PCT Application

If an inventor is a resident or citizen of the United States, he'll first want to fill out a patent application with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). After the patent application is filed with the USPTO, the inventor can claim his United States filing date as priority in other countries as long as the foreign applications are filed within the time limit.

This works for provisional patent applications in the United States as well. The filing date for all foreign applications filed within the time allowed will get that same priority date. However, for the provisional filing date to hold, a utility patent application, or patent for invention application, will need to be filed within a year of the provisional as well.

Filing a patent application through the PCT gives inventors a cushion for international filing. They are given as long as 31 months in some countries to file their patent applications before their PCT provision expires.

Citizens of the United States are permitted to file patent applications in the IP offices of many countries, including:

  • US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
  • European Patent Office (EPO)
  • Russian Patent Office (Rospatent)
  • IP Australia (IPAU)
  • Israel Patent Office
  • Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO)
  • Singapore IP Office
  • Japanese Patent Office (JPO)

When a PCT application is submitted, the invention will go through an international patent search, and the office will create an international preliminary report on patentability. This report will assess whether the invention is patentable. It will likely be denied for a patent if there is another patent already in existence that is too similar to it.

Different international IP offices handle this search differently. Some will only search and patent certain types of technologies, like those that are eco-friendly. It's a good idea to know what a country looks for in a patent application before submitting an application to them. Certain applications may not be a good fit for specific countries or may need to be reworked to better fit into another country's market.

PCT Patent Application Costs

Most patent owners end up spending between $4,000 and $5,000 during the PCT application process. The filing fees required by the government make up the majority of this expense.

One of the biggest advantages to filing with the PCT first is that the cost of international patent applications can be delayed and spaced out if needed. Filing for patents in multiple countries all at the same time can be very expensive.

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