The international patent application (PCT)

The Patent Cooperation Treaty makes it possible for applicants to apply for patent protection in as many contracting states as desired, and therefore almost worldwide, with a single patent application. The national or, for example, the European Patent Office are then responsible for the examination and grant of the patent.


The international phase

Submit the application to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or a national patent office. Your invention is then provisionally protected in all contracting states of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

The WIPO carries out a search on the state of the art (also known as the prior art). For applications from Switzerland, the European Patent Office carries out the search. Eighteen months after the priority date, the WIPO publishes the patent application and the search report.


The national phase

Within 30 months after the priority date, you initiate the national phase in those countries in which you want patent protection. For this, you must submit translations and engage local representatives where necessary. The responsible patent office examines your application and then grants the patent if appropriate.

There are only a few countries that don't participate in the PCT.  The WIPO's website provides an overview of the contracting states.


Advantages of a PCT application

  • You only have to submit the application documents once and in a single language.
  • Following the priority application, you have 30 months to decide on the countries in which you want to obtain patent protection.

Disadvantages of a PCT application

  • The application and search fees are high. The procedure is only worth it if you also want to obtain protection outside of Europe.
  • The invention and the technical documents should be at an advanced stage because a new application in the event of changes being necessary would be expensive.
  • Italian isn't an official language for the patent application procedure.

The WIPO's website provides a compilation of frequently asked questions about the PCT.