International patent applications or PCT patent applications

Filing an international patent application defers selecting the countries of interest and national costs.

Patent protection can be pursued in more than 140 countries through a single international patent application. This application can be filed in your home country and lasts until about 30 months from the filing date of the first application.

International patent applications are available through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (‘PCT’) – an international agreement for filing patent applications. They are often referred to as ‘PCT applications’, ‘PCTs’ or ‘PCT patent applications’.

Countries covered by PCT applications include:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • China
  • India
  • Europe.

Note: A European patent application covers about 30 countries.

Protecting your invention beyond the PCT application

A PCT application does not provide for the grant of an over-arching international patent. However, it delays the expense associated with applying for patent protection in each country.

An international patent application allows you more time to assess the commercial viability of your invention, and determine an appropriate strategy for commercialisation in other nations.

The international phase

Shortly after filing the international patent application, an international search report will issue. This provides a further indication of the patentability of the invention. In the following months you may choose to file a response to the report.

To continue pursuing patent protection, you must ‘enter the national phase’ in each country or region of interest. The applicable deadline varies from country to country. In most countries it is 30 or 31 months from the filing date of the initial patent application.

Usually international patent applications are filed at close to 12 months from the first application being filed and last another 18 months or so. This 18 months or so is referred to as the ‘international phase’.

The national phase

Examination in each country or region typically commences two or three years after the separate national or regional patent applications are filed. New Zealand examination often commences within six months or so.