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The Patent Co-operation Treaty

The UK is party to the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT).

Under the PCT you can file a single international patent application with a PCT Receiving Office in one language and in accordance with one set of rules, seeking simultaneous patent protection in a number of PCT contracting States.

If you are a UK resident or national you may file your international application with us or the European Patent Office (EPO), in our capacities as receiving Offices, or you may file direct to the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva, who administer the PCT.

If your application contains information about military technology, or could harm national security or public safety, you must request permission to apply for a patent abroad.

The Receiving Office will forward your international application to a PCT International Search Authority which, in the case of applications filed with us, is the EPO.

The International Searching Authority will carry out a search and provide you with an opinion on the patentability of your invention. The International Bureau will publish your application as soon as possible after 18 months from the priority date.'

After publication you can file a request for an International Preliminary Examination which, in the case of international applications filed with us, is also carried out by the EPO.

The examination, which is optional, will give you detailed information about the patentability of your invention which should help you decide whether to pursue the patent granting procedures in each of the contracting States in which you wish to obtain protection.

Before the expiry of a deadline, which in the UK is 31 months from the priority date of your application, you need to enter the ‘National Phase’ in those countries where you hope to secure protection. This typically requires the filing of a form, fee and, where necessary, a translation of the application.’

When granted in the individual contracting States, the patent will provide protection in the same way as a national patent and will be subject to the national law.

You can therefore obtain a patent valid in the UK by filing an international application and pursuing it through to grant in the national phase. Alternatively, you can use your international application to get a European patent which could in turn designate the UK.

If you require a paper version of a PCT information pack, you may e-mail our information centre or telephone 01633 814586 (PCT information line). Alternatively, you can download the PCT information pack below.

PCT information pack