The Patent Cooperation Treaty at 40

Author:Matthew Bryan - Catherine Jewell
Position:PCT Legal and User Relations Division - Communications Division, WIPO

Today inventors around the world have access to a system, known as the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which offers a cost-effective way to seek patent protection for their high-value technologies in multiple countries. That system, which has just celebrated its 40th year of operation, has become an essential component of the international patent system.


Today, the PCT includes 152 member countries. In the words of WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, the PCT is a “truly a global system and a global treaty” that is at “the center of worldwide patenting activity.”

The world’s largest companies (see figure below), leading universities and research institutions and individual inventors use the PCT as a strategic option to seek patent protection in multiple countries, since a single international patent application filed under the PCT has legal effect in all the countries bound by the Treaty.

Advantages of the PCT

The PCT offers users a number of advantages. In particular, applicants can postpone decisions about the countries in which they want to seek patent protection, and the significant associated costs, by up to 18 months longer than under the traditional patent system. They can also benefit from valuable feedback about the potential patentability of their inventions; at present, 22 patent offices that serve as International Searching Authorities partner with WIPO to provide users with such feedback. This additional time and feedback creates opportunities for applicants to continue the technical development of their invention, test the market for it and, if necessary, find business partners and secure financing.

The PCT also offers national and regional patent offices a number of advantages, in particular, by providing them with the same value-added information on the potential patentability of an invention as provided to applicants, and by freeing those offices from having to evaluate the formal aspects of the application. In this way, the PCT process facilitates decision-making and can increase confidence in the quality of the patents if ultimately granted.

What users are saying about the PCT

“WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty is a cornerstone of our IP business,” notes Alexander Kurz, Executive Vice President for Human Resources, Legal Affairs and Intellectual Property Management, Fraunhofer, Europe’s largest applied research organization. “It provides a great deal of legal security and gives us additional time to find the optimal commercial partner and the most appropriate market for our inventions. It is an excellent way to establish IP rights internationally. That’s why we use it,” he says.

Brazil’s pioneering aviation giant, Embraer, uses the PCT for similar reasons. “The PCT is an extremely useful tool that is supporting our drive to expand our global footprint,” explains Wander...

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