An international patent application (PCT - Patent Cooperation Treaty) may be filed by any physical person or legal entity resident in a Contracting State; the Italian patent and trademark office can act as Receiving Office of PCT applications only for Italian citizens or residents in Italy.
In Italy, PCT applications can be filed in Italian on the condition that a translation into one of the three official languages of the EPO (English, French or German) is provided within a month. At the time of application, the countries or regions of interest must be specified.
Upon receipt of the application, the WIPO in Geneva conducts a search and issues a preliminary opinion; the patent owner can request an international preliminary examination for national or regional Offices that will issue the patent. Neither the search nor the international examination are binding for the local office. The procedure has a duration of 30 or 31 months from the priority date, and within this period the owner must decide whether and where to validate the patent proceeding with the national or regional phases.
PCT patents assist holders by granting a relatively lengthy period (31 months) for deciding whether and where to validate the patent, not requiring the payment of any annuity for the period of the procedure and allowing the payment of the fees and translation costs of national applications to be phased over time.
There are 151 countries participating in the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the main countries that do not adhere to the PCT are some countries in South America, including Argentina and Venezuela, Africa, including the Congo, Eritrea and Ethiopia and in Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myanmar.
The regional offices that manage the regional phases are:
- EPO (European Patent Office)
- OAPI (African Intellectual Property Organization)
- ARIPO (African Regional IP)
- EA (Eurosian Patent Office)