Many patent applicants want protection not only in their country of origin, but also in other countries around the world.
It is possible to file separate applications in the countries of interest, possibly claiming priority from one or more earlier applications.
Alternatively, it is possible to make use of the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
Instead of filing multiple separate foreign applications as above, a single PCT application (also known as an “international application”) may be filed. The PCT application can be treated as a “bundle” of national applications.
The PCT application will eventually need to be converted into separate national applications, but not until 30 or 31 months from the priority date, depending on the country.
During the “international phase”, the PCT application is searched and a non-binding examination report is issued. The applicant can use the search and examination report to decide which countries they wish to pursue patent protection in.
The process of splitting the bundle of patent applications (the PCT application) into separate national applications is referred to as “entering the national phase” or “entering the national stage” of the PCT application.
Note that the PCT application itself cannot mature into an “international patent” and effectively dies after the 30 month deadline is over.
Please get in touch with us to find out more about international patent protection under the PCT.