The PCT process

With today’s global industries and markets, foreign patent protection is an essential part of IP strategy. So how does an applicant go about obtaining a foreign patent?

Patents are geographically limited. For example, a US patent gives you rights only in the US. To pursue international patent protection, you typically start by filing a “priority” patent application in your home country. This can be a regular patent application, or a provisional application in countries like the US and Australia. Either way, this “priority application” serves as a placeholder for any future international patent applications.

A common way of pursuing patent rights outside your home country is to file an international-type patent application called a PCT application (“PCT” stands for Patent Cooperation Treaty). A PCT can be filed up to 12 months from the priority application’s filing date, and reserves your right to enter over 140 countries that are members of the PCT.

Entering the national phase

A PCT application doesn’t automatically lead to global patent protection. Instead, you eventually need to apply for patents in each of the countries and regions where you wish to pursue patent protection. This involves filing separate applications at the “national stage” (or phase – the terms are interchangeable), which occurs 30 or 31 months after the priority application’s filing date.


Each country or region has its own set of requirements and deadlines for PCT national stage filing. For further country-specific details, please browse our filing guide.

After national stage entry, your patent application will be examined in each country. During prosecution, if the patent office finds earlier inventions (prior art) that are similar to your invention, you and your foreign attorney will need to respond and explain how your invention is different. You can make amendments (within reason) and submit arguments.

Assuming you resolve all of the examiner’s objections, your patent is “allowed”, and you may need to pay some printing and grant fees. In general, all that remains afterwards is to keep your patent protection “alive” by paying maintenance fees, also known as annuities.

PCT national stage entry and inovia

National stage entry is the step in the patenting process where help.

Compared with the technical expertise required to draft a patent application, entering the national stage is relatively simple. However, the process requires significant time and administrative work, and a great deal of knowledge about the process in each country. It’s also important to note that deadlines can rarely be extended, so it’s important to work with a partner you can trust.

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