About Intellectual Property IP Training IP Outreach IP for… IP and... IP in... Patent & Technology Information Trademark Information Industrial Design Information Geographical Indication Information Plant Variety Information (UPOV) IP Laws, Treaties & Judgements IP Resources IP Reports Patent Protection Trademark Protection Industrial Design Protection Geographical Indication Protection Plant Variety Protection (UPOV) IP Dispute Resolution IP Office Business Solutions Paying for IP Services Negotiation & Decision-Making Development Cooperation Innovation Support Public-Private Partnerships The Organization Working with WIPO Accountability Patents Trademarks Industrial Designs Geographical Indications Copyright Trade Secrets WIPO Academy Workshops & Seminars World IP Day WIPO Magazine Raising Awareness Case Studies & Success Stories IP News WIPO Awards Business Universities Indigenous Peoples Judiciaries Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions Economics Gender Equality Global Health Climate Change Competition Policy Sustainable Development Goals Enforcement Frontier Technologies Mobile Applications Sports Tourism PATENTSCOPE Patent Analytics International Patent Classification ARDI – Research for Innovation ASPI – Specialized Patent Information Global Brand Database Madrid Monitor Article 6ter Express Database Nice Classification Vienna Classification Global Design Database International Designs Bulletin Hague Express Database Locarno Classification Lisbon Express Database Global Brand Database for GIs PLUTO Plant Variety Database GENIE Database WIPO-Administered Treaties WIPO Lex - IP Laws, Treaties & Judgments WIPO Standards IP Statistics WIPO Pearl (Terminology) WIPO Publications Country IP Profiles WIPO Knowledge Center WIPO Technology Trends Global Innovation Index World Intellectual Property Report PCT – The International Patent System ePCT Budapest – The International Microorganism Deposit System Madrid – The International Trademark System eMadrid Article 6ter (armorial bearings, flags, state emblems) Hague – The International Design System eHague Lisbon – The International System of Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications eLisbon UPOV PRISMA Mediation Arbitration Expert Determination Domain Name Disputes Centralized Access to Search and Examination (CASE) Digital Access Service (DAS) WIPO Pay Current Account at WIPO WIPO Assemblies Standing Committees Calendar of Meetings WIPO Official Documents Development Agenda Technical Assistance IP Training Institutions COVID-19 Support National IP Strategies Policy & Legislative Advice Cooperation Hub Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISC) Technology Transfer Inventor Assistance Program WIPO GREEN WIPO's Pat-INFORMED Accessible Books Consortium WIPO for Creators WIPO ALERT Member States Observers Director General Activities by Unit External Offices Job Vacancies Procurement Results & Budget Financial Reporting Oversight

Summary of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) (1970)

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) makes it possible to seek patent protection for an invention simultaneously in over 150 countries by filing an "international" patent application. Such an application may be filed by a national or resident of a PCT Contracting State. It may generally be filed with the national patent office of the Contracting State of which the applicant is a national or resident or with the International Bureau of WIPO.

If the applicant is a national or resident of a Contracting State party to a regional patent treaty the member States of which are PCT Contracting States, the international application may also be filed with the regional patent office set up under such a treaty.

The PCT regulates in detail the formal requirements with which international applications must comply.

Filing an international application has the same legal effect as filing a national application with the national patent office of each PCT Contracting State.

The international application is subjected to an international search. That search is carried out by one of the competent International Searching Authorities (ISA) under the PCT [1] and results in an international search report which lists published documents that are considered closest to and might affect the patentability of the invention claimed in the international application. In addition, the ISA issues a preliminary and non-binding written opinion on whether the claimed invention appears to meet patentability criteria in light of the search results.

The international search report and written opinion are communicated to the applicant. After evaluating their content, the applicant may decide to withdraw the application, in case the report and opinion suggest that the granting of patents is unlikely. The applicant may also decide to amend the claims in the application.

If the international application is not withdrawn, it is published by the International Bureau together with the international search report. In most cases, the written opinion is made publicly available on PATENTSCOPE.

Before the expiration of 22 months from the priority date, the applicant has the option to request another International Searching Authority (any of the other ISAs willing to offer this service) [2] to carry out an additional search in the particular language used by that authority or technical fields in which that authority specializes. The goal of this additional search (called Supplementary International Search) is to reduce the likelihood of further documents coming to light in the national phase that would make the granting of a patent unlikely.

An applicant who decides to continue with the international application with a view to seeking national (or regional) patents can typically wait until close to the end of the thirtieth month from the priority date to commence the national procedure before each designated office. To commence the national procedure, the applicant must furnish a translation (where necessary) of the application into the official language of that office, pay the necessary fees and appoint a local patent agent if required.

If the applicant wishes to make amendments to the application – for example, to address any negative findings in the search report and the written opinion – or to have the potential patentability of the "as-amended" application reviewed – an optional international preliminary examination may be requested. The result of the preliminary examination is an international preliminary report on patentability (IPRP Chapter II) which is prepared by one of the competent International Preliminary Examining Authorities (IPEA) under the PCT [3] and which contains a preliminary and non-binding opinion on the patentability of the claimed invention. It provides the applicant with an even stronger basis on which to evaluate the chances of obtaining a patent and, if the report is favorable, a stronger basis on which to continue with the application before national and regional patent offices. If no international preliminary examination has been requested, the International Bureau establishes an international preliminary report on patentability (IPRP Chapter I) on the basis of the written opinion of the ISA and communicates this report to the designated offices.

The procedure under the PCT has numerous advantages for applicants, patent offices and the general public:

(i) applicants have up to 18 months more than if they had not used the PCT to reflect on the desirability of seeking protection in foreign countries, appoint local patent agents in each foreign country, prepare the necessary translations and pay national fees;

(ii) applicants can rest assured that, if their international application meets the PCT formality requirements, it cannot be rejected on formal grounds by any designated office during the national phase;

(iii) on the basis of the international search report and the written opinion, applicants can assess the chances of their invention meeting the patentability requirements;

(iv) applicants have the possibility, during the optional international preliminary examination procedure, to amend the international application and thus put it in order before processing by the various national and regional patent offices;

(v) the search and examination work of patent offices in the national phase can be reduced thanks to the international search report and the written opinion which are communicated to national Offices together with the international application;

(vi) applicants are able to access fast-track examination procedures in the national phase in Contracting States that have PCT-Patent Prosecution Highway (PCT-PPH) agreements or similar arrangements;

(vii) since each international application is published with an international search report, third parties are in a better position to formulate a well-founded opinion about the potential patentability of the claimed invention; and

(viii) for applicants, international publication on PATENTSCOPE puts the world on notice of their applications, which can be an effective means of advertising and looking for potential licensees.

Ultimately, the PCT:

  • brings the world within reach;
  • streamlines the process of fulfilling diverse formality requirements;
  • postpones the major costs associated with international patent protection;
  • provides a strong basis for patenting decisions; and
  • is used by the world's major corporations, research institutions and universities in seeking international patent protection.

The PCT created a Union which has an Assembly. Every State party to the PCT is a member of the Assembly. Among the most important tasks of the Assembly are the amendment of the Regulations issued under the Treaty, the adoption of the biennial program and budget of the Union and the fixing of certain fees connected with the use of the PCT system.

The PCT offers a reduction of one of the fees to be paid at the time of filing (the international filing fee) by 90% to applicants from certain States. Applicants from one group of States (which meet specific criteria on gross domestic product and numbers of PCT applications filed) must be natural persons who are nationals and residents of the qualifying State. And for a second group of States (classified by the United Nations as least developed countries), applicants can be either natural persons or legal entities. The lists of the States qualifying for these reductions are updated every five years.

Details concerning the PCT can be obtained by consulting the PCT website, the PCT Applicant's Guide, and the PCT Newsletter, available in multiple languages.

The PCT was concluded in 1970, amended in 1979 and modified in 1984 and in 2001.

It is open to States party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883). Instruments of ratification or accession must be deposited with the Director General of WIPO.

[1] The patent offices of Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, Finland, India, Israel, Japan, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Türkiye, Ukraine, the United States of America, the Eurasian Patent Office, the European Patent Office, the Nordic Patent Institute and the Visegrad Patent Institute act as International Searching Authorities under the PCT (status on March 1, 2024).

[2] The patent offices of Austria, Finland, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Singapore, Türkiye, Ukraine, the European Patent Office, the Nordic Patent Institute and the Visegrad Patent Institute offer supplementary international searches (status on March 1, 2024).

[3] The patent offices of Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, Finland, India, Israel, Japan, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Türkiye, Ukraine, the United States of America, the Eurasian Patent Office, the European Patent Office, the Nordic Patent Institute and the Visegrad Patent Institute act as International Preliminary Examining Authorities under the PCT (status on March 1, 2024).