The Patent Cooperation Treaty (or PCT) is an effective solution for protecting your invention outside of Europe. The main advantage of this treaty is that it allows you to file a single request for different countries and it leads to an international search for prior art and, in some cases, a preliminary examination of other patentability conditions which are then transmitted to national or regional patent offices. The request is then processed in the countries for which a patent is requested in the same way as a national request (i.e. according to the procedures and regulation in effect in these countries). Only countries which are members of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) may be designated in an international patent request. This Treaty is managed by the OMPI.
This procedure provides other advantages. It is relatively easy to obtain a priority date for the different countries in which you would like to obtain protection. If you are looking for international protection, this single-request system is also less expensive. Another advantage is that you have 30 months after filing the international request to decide whether (and in which countries) you wish to pursue the procedure to obtain a patent. This postpones the payment of procedural costs and additional translations. In the meantime, you can also evaluate the opportunity provided by the patent and look for partners for exploiting the invention or planning its commercial strategy.
The procedure has two phases. First, an international patent request must be filed with a relevant regional or national body which will process the request. This is the international phase of the PCT procedure. A search for prior art will be carried out and, upon request, a preliminary examination of the patentability conditions (non-binding for the applicant). The patent request and the search report must be published online within 18 months and will be accessible on the website of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
Next, the applicant must decide whether to pursue the procedure in the different designated countries. This is the national/regional phase of the PCT procedure. To do so, the applicant has 30 months (or 31 months for the European Patent Office) after the filing date to accomplish all administrative formalities, including filing translations and paying taxes in each country. The procedure then continues in accordance with national or regional rules and procedures.
The PCT procedure does not lead to a Belgian patent. Only a European patent may be chosen in the international request for protection in Belgium. During the European Patent Office’s examination of the request, during the national or regional phase, you will be able to designate those European Patent Organisation countries (including Belgium) in which you would like to receive protection.
Only a Belgian citizen or resident may file a PCT request with the OPRI. You are not required to be represented by an expert. However, we do recommend it.
For more information, see the websites of the EPO and the OMPI.