Definition: Patent Co-operation Treaty
Research and development
The PCT allows for a filing of an international application to have the same effect as a national application in each of the contracting countries designated in the application. However, patents are still granted nationally. The PCT system is superimposed upon the national and European systems. In PCT-applications, the applicant may either designate a country, or a regional office such as the European Patent Office (EPO). These so called Euro-PCT filings may then apply for protection in a number of European countries.
For a patent application filed under the Euro-PCT route, two phases are identified - the international phase and the regional (European) phase. During the international phase, a search is carried out and, on the request of the applicant, a preliminary examination can be done. Eighteen months after priority date (the date of the very first filing), the application is published, and two to three years after the priority date (one to two years in most of the cases), the application, if not withdrawn, enters the regional (European) phase. Here, formal search and substantive examination are undertaken, ending with the application being either granted, refused, or withdrawn by the applicant.
Research and Development: Annual Statistics 1999, Eurostat, p. 49