PCT is an acronym of the Patent Cooperation Treaty, as administered by WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organisation). Over 125 countries have signed up to the Treaty. However the important thing to understand is that a PCT application will npot result in a PCT or international patent. There is currently no such thing as an international patent.
What a PCT gives is the opportunity to file in those 125 countries. It may be called an ‘umbrella’ application in that when you file the PCT you nominate or ‘designate’ states in which you may later apply for patent protection.
On filing a PCT application, applicants must designate the countries in which they wish to retain the option to file a patent application. There is a fee per country designated up to the first 5.
After that any number of further countries may be designated without fee. It is also possible to designate multi-country regional offices such as the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) or EPO (European Patent Organisation).
PCTs can be filed direct at the International Bureau of WIPO in Geneva. Alternatively most are filed in an approved Receiving Office such as the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). Typically in most cases the PCT will claim priority from an earlier filed national patent application. This is generally due to the large amount of investment a PCT requires and the concurrent need for maximum commercial clarity but they may be filed as an initial filing.
There are two stages to the PCT process and this will be discussed in Part II.