An International patent application can be filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and is then known as a PCT application. The PCT application provides a priority date as of its own filing date. It pends for a period of 30 to 32 months (there may be variations depending on country) during which time specific countries can be designated and national stage applications can be filed.
Most countries – but not all – are members of the PCT.
It is also possible to file a patent application in other countries under the Paris Convention. This is often more economical when up to three countries are selected; beyond that, a PCT application is often more economical.
The PCT application results in lower filing fees, and is economically feasible when filing in a number of foreign countries, typically more than four or five.
A PCT application does not, in itself, result in a patent grant in any country. Instead, it is the foundation for later-filed national stage applications.
Furthermore, the PCT application can benefit from the earlier priority date of a national stage application, e.g. a U.S. Patent application upon which it is based.
The government filing fees are substantial, and are much higher than for a corresponding U.S. Utility patent application.
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