Grips 2018/1 – The PCT Application

Exactly 40 years ago, on January 24, 1978, the International Patent Cooperation Treaty came into force. It regulates the procedure for depositing an international patent application and is known today under the abbreviation PCT. From initially low registration numbers, over time it has risen to a level of significance that no one would have thought possible.

Since as early as the mid-1800s the need to internationalise patent protection arose within the increasingly internationally active industry. However, negotiations quickly revealed that the interests were too disparate to allow for the creation of a worldwide patent.

Still, a common denominator could be found in priority right, and in a few basic principles of trademarks, patents and design rights. On 20 March 1883, the Paris Convention came into being, and continues to be one of the most essential international treaties to this day.

In 1966, efforts towards an international patent system began. However, these efforts didn’t result in a worldwide patent either, but rather in a time limited, centralised application process. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) was signed on 19 June 1970 and entered into force on 24 January 1978 – i.e. 40 years ago – in 18 countries.

The original scepticism towards the utility of this treaty manifested itself through miniscule application numbers of a few hundred per year. Today, nothing remains of said scepticism: in 2017, over 230’000 PCT applications have been filed and the number of member states stands at 152.

What is the PCT and what makes it so attractive?

Read more in our new issue of our newsletter grips®.