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Article · 06.01.2023


PCT stands for Patent Cooperation Treaty. In this article, we take a closer look at a PCT-application.

What is PCT?

PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) is an international patent cooperation which makes it possible to reserve the right to patent protection for an invention in more than 150 countries simultaneously for up to 30 months from the priority date or the filing date if no priority is required.

A patent application filed in the PCT-system is called an international patent application. The international patent application is said to be in the international phase up until 30 months from the priority date. Hereafter, the international application proceeds to the national phase, in which the patent application must be filed nationally in one or more of the PCT member states to obtain patent protection.

The international authorities carry out a preliminary and non-binding novelty search and assessment of the patentability of the invention but does not issue patents. Instead, it is the national and regional patent authorities who, in the national phase, make the final and binding assessment of whether the invention is patentable or not.

How does a PCT-application work?

An international patent application can be filed directly to the international authorities or within 12 months following a previously filed patent application.

After filing, a novelty search is carried out by an “International Searching Authority” (ISA). The Nordic Patent Institute, the Swedish patent authority, or the European Patent Office would be the ISA for a Danish company. The ISA searches published patent documents and technical literature (prior art) that can influence the patentability of the invention. The applicant then receives a search report and a non-binding assessment of the patent’s patentability approximately 4 months after filing the PCT-application. The international patent application is published 18 months after the priority date or the filing date if no priority is required.

Continuation of the international patent application can be carried out nationally in PCT member countries. The deadline for national continuation is typically 30 or 31 months from the priority date or the filing date if no priority date is required.

Advantages of the PCT-application

An international patent application makes it possible to reserve the right to patent protection for an invention in 157 countries for up to 30 months from the priority date or the filing date. Thus, it becomes possible to defer the costs and allows for more time to test the product and various markets, before needing to make a final decision on selecting countries.

In addition, the international search report and preliminary patentability assessment can be used to identify risks, in relation to national continuation of the international patent application.

What a PCT-application must include

An international patent application must include a description of the invention, to that a professional can carry out the invention without unnecessary burden. Furthermore, the application must include claims defining what is sought to be protected. The claims must be clear and distinct, as well as supported by the description.

Read about patent application and what it must include.

Apply for international patents

The PCT-procedure is divided into an international phase and a national phase. When a patent application is filed or pursued in PCT, the international phase begins. Here, the international novelty search is performed, whereafter a search report and written assessment is produced.

Following the international phase, the PCT-application can be pursued in the national phase, with national patent authorities in the countries where patent protection is sought. The PCT-application must be pursued in the national phase before the end of the 30th or 31st months from the priority date, depending on the country where protection is sought. The national patent authorities perform their own assessment of the patent application based on national law and practice.

An international application does not in itself result in the grant of a patent, given that international patents do not exist with patents being territorially restricted. The international application must therefore be continued in the countries where patent protection is sought to obtain a patent.

Obtain a European patent with the PCT-application

A PCT-application does not make it either easier or quicker to apply for a patent in Europe. One of the purposes of a PCT-application is to extend the process, so that the applicant can test the invention on the market before making further investment in the national phase.

A Danish company can choose the European patent authority as the International Searching Authority (ISA) and thus get a clear indication of whether the invention will be considered patentable by the European patent authority, if they choose to pursue the application as a European patent application.

How does the PCT-application relate to the unitary patent?

The PCT-application is an international patent application that allows for patent protection to be sought for an invention in several countries simultaneously. A unitary patent is a European patent with unitary effect, granted by the European Patent Office (EPO). The unitary patent is valid in all the EU member countries that are part of the UPC (Unified Patent Court), which currently includes 17 countries. A unitary patent is just one of the patents that can be applied for based on a PCT-application. For example, a procedure could look like this:

Danish patent application -> PCT-application -> European patent application -> grant of European patent application -> request for unitary patent.

This means that it is possible to obtain a unitary patent through the PCT-system, as the application in the national phase can be pursued as a European patent application. Following the grant of the European patent, the applicant can then request the grant of a unitary patent.

Why chose PCT-application?

The most important reasons to choose PCT is:

  • you can extend the time and costs
  • you get a preliminary assessment of your invention
  • you get additional time to apply for financing

Shall we help with your PCT-application?

The application process starts with the preparation of a patent application that meets the formal PCT requirements. The patent application is then typically filed at the Danish or European patent authorities, after which it can be continued in PCT within 12 months. Before the end of the 30th month following the filing of the patent application, it is then continued nationally in the PCT member countries where patent protection is sought.

Through our exhaustive knowledge of the PCT application process, including the procedures of the authorities, content requirements, language use, and timing, we can guide you safely through this entire process. You get a thorough patent application, prepared by experts in your field, and with years of experience. This increases your chance of obtaining your patent, as well as your patent being both strong and broad enough to properly protect and strengthen your business.

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