The next major intellectual-property (IP) treaty that I would like to discuss in this blog is the Patent Cooperation Treaty (“PCT”). The PCT was signed in 1970 and became effective in 1978. The PCT provides applicants in the member states with the ability to file a single patent application in one country or region and to delay the filing in all of the other member states for 20 months, 30 months or 31 months.

The PCT has been adopted by 152 parties. Some of the parties are members of four regional patent offices – the European Patent Office, the Eurasian Patent Office, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization and the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle. The treaty is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Most countries throughout the world have joined the PCT. However, two notable exceptions are Argentina and Taiwan.

The PCT allows an applicant to file a provisional or a non-provisional “national” patent application in one of the PCT states to obtain a priority date. Then, the applicant can file an international application within one year of the priority date. The applicant will select a qualified national or regional patent office to perform a patent search and to examine the application at the time of filing of the international application.

Usually, the national or regional patent office will complete an initial search and issue a preliminary application within four months of the filing date for the international application. Then, the application will be published. Publication usually occurs 18 months after the priority date.

The applicant has the ability to amend the application after the initial search is complete. The applicant can also request an additional search or make arguments in an effort to obtain a new opinion.

Once this “international stage” is complete, the applicant can file national-stage applications in various member countries or regions. Some countries or regions have streamlined procedures for processing PCT applications.