A PCT application offers the possibility to obtain patent protection in over 150 countries world-wide with a single patent application. The international application phase is directed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. This results in a simplified procedure as compared to proceeding several parallel national applications. The payment of official fees and the filing of translations of the application are due at least 30 months after the filing or priority date, so that the decision, in which countries patent protection shall be sought, can be postponed.
In the international phase, an International Search Authority conducts an international search for prior art documents. The resulting international search report and international search opinion can be used to assess the patentability of the invention.
In order to provide further clarity on the patentability of the invention, an International Preliminary Examination can be requested.
The applicant has at least 30 months from the date of filing or the priority date to decide in which countries the PCT application shall enter the national phase.
A positive International Search Opinion and a positive International Preliminary Examination Report can be used to speed up the grant procedure at the national offices. If available, accelerated grant at national offices can be achieved by invoking a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) agreement. The European Patent Office has PPH agreements with several major patent offices, particularly with the patent offices of the USA, China, South Korea, and Japan.