For innovators who have original ideas and want to share them with the world, there are measures in place that allow them to do so with peace of mind knowing those ideas will be protected. The UK Patent Cooperation Treaty, known as PCT for short, goes a long way toward ensuring that. This is essentially an international treaty with more than 145 contracting states that allow people to seek patent protection for their inventions simultaneously in many countries, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization.
One Time, Less Hassle
The beauty of the PCT is that inventors only have to file one international patent application rather than several local, state or regional applications. One application for one purpose — this is the idea behind the PCT, a vital investment in the protection of inventions abroad. The national and regional patent offices still, however, grant the patents and this status of control has not changed. The PCT is for use by many entities and people, including corporations, research institutions, universities, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and inventors. There are many elements of the procedure, and these include:
- International Search
- International Publication
- Supplementary International Search (optional)
- International Preliminary Examination (optional)
- National Phase
Protection in Many Countries
Inventors have a few options available to them when it comes to protecting their works in several countries. They can go the direct route and file separate patent applications at the same time for each desired country; or they can go the PCT route and file an application which is good for all contracting states. The latter option is considered a more convenient, less time consuming, easier option. It’s also more cost effective.
As a review, there are four central types of intellectual property protection pertaining to products, according to Innovate Design, and those include:
- Patents: protects the product’s functionality
- Registered Designs: protects the product’s appearance
- Trademarks: protects the product’s or company’s branding
- Copyrights: protects all works of art, whether audio or written
With the PCT and other similar organizations such as EPC (European Patent Convention), applicants have 12 months from the initial filing to extend coverage to additional countries. It’s important to note that patents can take more than four years to be granted; however, the date of filing shows that inventor had the initial idea. Registered designs provide coverage for up to 25 years, with five-year renewal periods. Trademarks are in place to protect anything from logos to symbols. Copyright protection is available for any original book, manuscript, artwork, music, audio or recording.
As said earlier, the convenience of the PCT is clear, as it saves time and hassle without having to file separate protective patents. It’s also easy to apply for through the ePCT Portal that allows users to sign up for the service online. Leaving protection of an idea, product, invention or work of art up to chance can result in the possibility of someone else stealing that idea. In order to protect it as the inventor’s own, it’s necessarily to register as soon as possible. The PCT makes this easy for up to 150 contracting states.
Video: Introduction to the PCT System