What is the Patent Cooperation Treaty?

What is the Patent Cooperation Treaty?

A patent is a set of exclusive rights related to an invention, granted to an inventor.  When a country grants patents that patent is valid within the country’s borders.  When an inventor is granted a patent, the inventor is granted a monopoly on the invention for a set period of time.  A patent owner can prevent other people from making, selling and using the patented invention within the country which has granted the patent.  A patent granted by one country cannot be enforced outside the the borders of the country which granted the patent.  An inventor is required to apply for patent in each country the inventor would like to protect the invention.

Historically, the requirement to file an patent application in many different countries was burdensome.  Filing a patent in one country is a costly and time consuming process,  filing in multiple countries could increase those costs exponentially.  Different countries might have different rules about what qualifies as prior art and the filing deadlines for patent applications.  Conflicting laws could create a situation where filing in one country would prevent a patent from being granted in another country.  For instance, if an inventor filed a patent application in one country, which was published, and then the inventor wanted to file a patent in a second country, the published patent application might be considered prior art in the second country.

To help harmonize the process of acquiring a patent in many different countries, the Patent Cooperation Treaty was created.  The Patent Cooperation Treaty makes it possible to seek patent protection for an invention simultaneously in each of a large number of countries by filing an international  patent application.   Eighteen nations originally signed the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 1970.  As of 2018 there are one hundred seventy seven members of the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

The Patent Cooperation Treaty streamlines the process of filing patent applications in many countries at the same time.  The Patent Cooperation Treaty system is a patent filing system, not a patent granting system.  Filing a Patent Cooperation Treaty patent application will not result in a granted patent, rather the Patent Cooperation Treaty creates a uniform patent application which will be accepted by multiple countries.  It also fixes filing deadlines which could lead to a rejection.

A patent applicant can file a Patent Cooperation Treaty application treaty within 12 months of filing a patent application in the applicant’s home country.  The Patent Cooperation Treaty application benefits from the home country’s priority filing date.

The Patent Cooperation Treaty system provides for:

  • an international phase comprising:
    • filing of the international application
    • international search and written opinion of the ISA
    • international publication and
    • international preliminary examination
  • a national/regional phase before designated Offices

The decision to grant a patent is made by regional offices in the national phase of the Patent Cooperation Treaty patent application.

Compared the patchwork of different priority dates and filing deadlines a patent applicant would have dealt with in the past, the Patent Cooperation Treaty makes the process of getting a patent much more predictable.

If you have questions or comments about this article please contact the authors of this blog: admin@uspatentlaw.cn