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Patent Cooperation Treaty Applications

Recently an agency of the United Nations, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), was in the news for allegedly supplying computers and other sensitive equipment to North Korea and Iran. One of WIPO’s primary responsibilities is to administer the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system, which allows an applicant to file a single application that preserves the applicant’s ability to file patent applications in about 140 countries for a longer period than would otherwise be available. A PCT application is not a true patent application in the sense that it can not issue as a patent either internationally or in an individual foreign country. Instead, the PCT application functions like a preliminary application that extends the time for filing the necessary patent applications in the individual foreign countries where patent protection is desired, and as a result prolongs the time period in which the applicant has to decide whether and in which countries to file for a patent. With the filing of a PCT application, the patent applicant has at least thirty months from the earliest filing date, rather than the normal twelve months from the earliest filing date, to file applications in foreign countries. Within that period, the applicant must still file individual applications in the countries where patent protection is desired. Unfortunately there is currently no single application process that can result in an international patent or a patent issuing in all countries. The PCT authorities will also perform some preliminary searching of the subject matter of the invention sought to be patented, and may examine the application for patentability, although the determinations made by the PCT authorities are not binding on any country.

Submitted by Attorney Jeff Proehl

February 25, 2015