Frequently Asked Questions (updated February 2011)
- General Questions
- Preparing a PCT-SAFE Application
- Submitting a PCT-SAFE Application
- Certificates and Security
- Installation of PCT-SAFE
- Hardware and Software Requirements
- PCT-SAFE - Next Steps
- Help Desk and Support
1. What is PCT-SAFE? (SAFE = Secure Applications Filed Electronically)
WIPO's electronic filing software, PCT-SAFE, offers PCT users the means to prepare their international applications in electronic form and to file them either via secure online transmission or using physical media such as CD-R. The software can also be operated in PCT-EASY mode where applications are filed on paper, accompanied by the request form data and abstract on physical medium (diskette, CD-R, DVD-R).
"The PCT-SAFE software supports all of the requirements of the basic common standard and certain alternatives available under Annex F. Use of the PCT-SAFE software is not mandatory but any applicant may choose to use it, in which case the receiving Office must accept the international application concerned (except where it has notified a transitional reservation under AIs Section 703(f) in that respect). Any receiving Office may also specify other filing software acceptable to it." (Section 6 of Annex F [PDF] of the Administrative Instructions Under the PCT).
2. How does PCT-SAFE work?
The PCT-SAFE system contains four components:
- PCT-SAFE client for preparing the PCT request form. In case of e-filing, it is also used for securely transmitting the entire application to the receiving Office;
- PCT-SAFE Editor, a word processor-like tool that enables users to prepare the text and drawings of a PCT application in electronic format (the application will be saved in eXtensible Markup Language (XML)) for e-filing purposes;
- security services and a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI);
- a receiving server for use in receiving Offices, that includes a back-end system to print and securely store the received data.
3. How do I get started?
The PCT-SAFE software package is available for downloading from the website or, upon request, the PCT e-Services Help Desk will send you a CD-ROM installation by mail, free of charge. See our brief Getting Started page to see how easy it is. Both the PCT-SAFE client and the PCT-SAFE Editor contain Help files with key information concerning the creation, signing and submission of an international application. The user documentation on the website includes e-learning tutorials for both the client and the Editor. The PCT e-Services Help Desk will also provide assistance should you encounter any problems with the software.
If you prepare and file PCT-EASY type applications you only need to install and use the PCT-SAFE client.
If you wish to benefit from the highest fee reduction (CHF 300 or equivalent), you can prepare the text (and drawing) part of the application in XML with the PCT-SAFE Editor. Depending on the receiving Office you have selected, the text and drawing files may also be filed in PDF format (see the requirements of each e-filing Office) [PDF].
Digital certificates, required for signing and transmitting applications online, can be obtained through the Certificates section of this website in a simple online transaction.
4. What are the fee reductions for electronic filing?
The PCT Assembly in September/October 2006 approved a new fee schedule that entered into force on October 12, 2006. The international filing fee is reduced by the following amount if the international application is, in accordance with and to the extent provided for in the Administrative Instructions, filed:
- on paper together with a copy in electronic form, in character coded format, of the request and the abstract (PCT-EASY type application): 100 CHF (or equivalent),
- in electronic form, the request not being in character coded format (e.g. in PDF or TIFF): 100 CHF (or equivalent),
- in electronic form, the request being in character coded format (XML): 200 CHF (or equivalent),
- in electronic form, the request, as well as the description, claims and abstract being in character coded format (XML, prepared e.g. with the PCT-SAFE Editor): 300 CHF (or equivalent).
5. How does PCT-SAFE compare with the former PCT-EASY software?
The software is called PCT-SAFE and it enables filing two types of applications: fully electronic and PCT-EASY type applications on paper, accompanied by a physical medium (the choice between the two filing modes is made on the Contents page) . PCT-SAFE was based on an enhanced version of PCT-EASY to facilitate the transition.
When preparing the request part of your application, the system validates the entered data and the "traffic light" system indicates any fields, which may have been incorrectly or inconsistently completed.
In order to file an application electronically, the description, claims, abstract and drawings - also called the application body - of the international application can be drafted using a word processor and then converted into the XML format (eXtensible Markup Language) using the PCT-SAFE Editor, an authoring tool that is provided in the PCT-SAFE software package, or the application can be written using the Editor directly. The application body can also be prepared with other types of files (e.g. PDF, TIFF) as attachments.
6. What are the methods of payment of PCT-SAFE applications?
You can use the same payment modes as you normally do, e.g. when filing with WIPO's receiving Office, you can authorize the RO/IB to debit your deposit account, pay by credit card or by cheque. No online payment is available at the moment.
7. Which receiving Offices accept PCT-SAFE applications?
For PCT-EASY type applications please see a list of receiving Offices that accept such applications.
It is possible to file fully electronic PCT-SAFE applications with RO/AU, RO/CN, RO/DE, RO/DK, RO/EP, RO/ES, RO/FI, RO/GB, RO/IB, RO/JP, RO/KR, RO/MY, RO/NL, RO/PH, RO/PL, RO/RO, RO/SE, RO/SK.
PCT applications can be filed electronically with RO/US, using the PCT-SAFE software in combination with USPTO's EFS-Web system (see instructions [PDF]).
8. Is it possible to file PCT applications using other filing systems?
Underlying the PCT-SAFE requirements is a two-fold technical standard that ensures systems interoperability through the use of a common protocol and standardized data format using the Extensible Markup Language (XML) computer language. Furthermore, the software has been developed with an emphasis on component reuse, for example in the customization of existing electronic filing software [see diagram].
Following the promulgation at the end of 2001 of the necessary legal and technical standards (Part 7 and Annex F [PDF] of the Administrative Instructions Under the PCT) to enable the electronic filing of international applications under the PCT, the Trilateral Offices (the European Patent Office (EPO), the Japan Patent Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office) and the International Bureau of WIPO have been working on creating compliant implementations. As a result of the cooperation between the Trilateral Offices and the International Bureau, the possibility for users to be able to file applications with different receiving Offices using the same software is a reality. For example, PCT-SAFE and epoline® are harmonized and it will be possible to file using either PCT-SAFE or epoline® with different receiving Offices.
The EPO was the first to launch, on November 1, 2002, PCT electronic filing for European applicants who wish to use the EPO as receiving Office. RO/FR accepts PCT filings in electronic form using epoline® software.
9. What are the legal and technical requirements for e-filing under the PCT?
Please see the legal framework and technical standards, Part 7 and Annex F [PDF] of the Administrative Instructions Under the PCT.
1. What is the difference between Demo mode and Production mode?
Fully electronic filing: The Production mode is reserved for preparing and filing real PCT applications, both online and on physical media. When you start the File Manager in Demo mode, you can send test filings to the demo server of the RO/IB (and other receiving Offices, provided that the receiving Office selected has such an option available). Please see our brief Demo filing guide.
PCT-EASY type of filing: Requests can be prepared in either mode but it is recommended to use the software always in the same mode, to easily access previously prepared forms and address book (data bases for the different modes are separate).
2. What file format is required in electronic filing?
The receiving Office at WIPO (RO/IB) has specified the following as to electronic document formats (Section 710(a)(i) of the Administrative Instructions):
XML (in general; see Annex F, section 126.96.36.199)
WIPO Standard ST.25 (for sequence listings; see Annex F, section 188.8.131.52 and Annex C)
PDF (for files that are referenced by XML files within the international application; see Annex F, section 3.1.2)
TIFF (for files that are referenced by XML files within the international application; see Annex F, section 184.108.40.206)
PCT-SAFE applications may also contain a mix of documents: the text part in XML and drawings attached as a PDF or TIFF attachment (which still entitles you to the highest fee reduction as it is the format of the text that determines the reduction).
3. Is it possible to file fully electronic applications in non-Latin languages with RO/IB?
WIPO's receiving Office accepts PCT applications in any language. However, for the time being, the receiving server is not able to correctly generate a filing receipt containing non-Latin characters, e.g. Chinese, Japanese, Russian. Therefore, if the request form is in one of these languages, the filing receipt will be in English, and the applicant's name and the title of invention appear as # signs on the receipt. This behaviour does not affect the filing itself. We would nevertheless recommend that you contact the RO/IB to make sure that the application has been well received.
Please also note that when you prepare fully electronic applications in non-Latin languages, the file names of the text and drawing attachments, whether pdf or xml format, should be in Latin characters.
4. Should I use the PCT-SAFE Editor?
The PCT-SAFE software package includes the PCT-SAFE Editor (PSE), an XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language) authoring tool that helps applicants prepare the specification in XML format, in compliance with the complex electronic PCT application standard. With this easy-to-use, word processor-like tool, applicants have the option of converting (copy and paste or import HTML) an application body originally created using a word processor, or to prepare the application body from scratch within the Editor; no knowledge of XML is required.
The PCT-SAFE Editor uses HTML as a common conversion language to import documents from most popular word processors, including Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. Because there is no direct software communication or integration between the PCT-SAFE Editor and the word processor, there are no specific version, 'service pack' or other compatibility issues. As long as your word processor can save HTML or copy it to the clipboard, you can convert your documents into XML using the PCT-SAFE Editor. Of course, plain text is also supported for those applications that cannot create HTML.
5. How do I fill in the Contents page?
The choice between the two filing modes - fully electronic or PCT-EASY type - is made on the Contents page.
Fully electronic: If you attach a single PDF document ("single specification") containing description, claims and abstract, please see details in item 5. below. It is also possible to attach these elements separately; double-click the different application sections you wish to attach. The system will open a File Open/Browse dialogue box and you can then select the files to be attached (document formats available depend on the choice of receiving Office). Once the mandatory elements are included, the validation lights change from red to green.
If you have prepared an application body (description, claims, abstract, drawings, if any) in XML format, double click on "Application body" on the Checklist. You will then browse to attach the file. Validation lights for the different sections of the application change to green on the Contents page.
Note: As a safeguard to conversion errors, it is possible to attach the application documents in their pre-conversion format. This option is available on the Contents page/Accompanying items. Select "Pre-converted documents" from the drop-down list, click Add and then double-click to navigate and attach files in their original format, e.g. as Word documents. As for other Accompanying items, there is no charge for including the pre-conversion documents in the application.
PCT-EASY type of filing: indicate how many pages of description, claims, abstract and drawings the applications contains. To attach the abstract in electronic form, click the "Edit abstract file" button and type the text or use copy-paste function. Once all traffic lights are green, select the option Save as Ready for submission (from the File menu or clicking the icon). You then check the Abstract, scroll through the validation log and indicate who will sign the request form printout. As part of the submission preparation process, the software will print the request form and save it in the Ready to submit folder. Right click on the application and select Submit. Save to diskette or copy to CD-R or DVD-R and label as PCT-EASY physical medium, with the first applicant's name and file reference. The application can now be transmitted to the receiving Office in paper form accompanied by the physical medium.
6. Attaching a single specification PDF file
To attach a single specification file, select the checkbox at the top of the Contents page. This will modify the Contents Master Table to show a row for the single Specification file (for the text content of the international application) and a Drawings row (for the drawings content, if any).
- Double click on the row 'Specification' to open the 'specification' details screen.
- Use the 'browse' button to navigate to the folder that contains the document. Select it, then click "Open".
- PCT-SAFE will attach the document and indicate the total number of pages.
- Manually insert the page numbers for each part of the document (description, claims and abstract). If there is no abstract check the checkbox 'No abstract'.
- Click OK to return to the Contents Master Table.
- If the application contains drawings, attach the document containing the drawings separately.
7. Attaching an electronic priority document
Where a priority claim has been indicated on the Priority page, for which the applicant has not requested the receiving Office to prepare and transmit a copy of the priority document to the International Bureau, the details of the priority claim will appear on the Accompanying Items table.
Note: This functionality is currently available only when the International Bureau of WIPO (RO/IB) has been selected as the receiving Office. For the time being, the only receiving Office that issues certified copies of priority documents in electronic format is the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
- On the Contents page, double click on the row of the Accompanying Items table corresponding to the priority claim.
- Use the browse button to navigate to the folder that contains the electronic priority document. Select the document then click 'open'.
- PCT-SAFE will attach the document and indicate the total number of pages.
- Click 'OK' to return to the Accompanying Items table.
8. What is a basic signature versus an enhanced signature and when do I use them?
Below is a table defining each signature type and the corresponding signature requirements by document type.
Type of filing
Basic electronic signatures
Text string signature (Alphabetical)
Original separate power of attorney
Declaration of Inventorship
Original separate power of attorney
Declaration of Inventorship
A TIFF file containing a bitmap of the signature.
The TIFF file must meet the requirements as described in section 220.127.116.11 in Annex F of the Administrative Instructions Under the PCT.
Original separate power of attorney
Declaration of Inventorship
Original separate power of attorney
Declaration of Inventorship
Enhanced electronic signature
A PKI and a PKCS #7 digital signature data type.
All paper documents which must be signed.
(e.g. Request, Declaration of Inventorship, Original separate power of attorney, etc )
* Only one signatory can sign the request with his/her enhanced electronic signature. Other signatories for the request must sign with basic electronic signatures.
9. When and how can I print my PCT application once I have completed it?
Your can preview and print the request form at any time by selecting File-Preview or File-Print from the Request screen.
After the text and drawing documents have been attached in electronic form, viewing and printing options are immediately available on the Content details page.
When applications are in the Drafts, Ready to sign, Ready to submit or Submitted folders, it is also possible to view and print them in PDF format. Select the option "By document" from the "View" pull-down menu in the top right corner. All applications are listed and it is possible to expand the application by clicking on the + sign next to the file reference, to view and print all documents.
If you use the PCT-EASY mode, the software will produce a request form printout as part of the submission procedure. However, this may not occur automatically when using version 5.0.x of the Acrobat Reader. In such cases the software allows for manual printing from the Acrobat Reader. Instructions on how to use this functionality can be found in Printing in PCT-EASY Mode [PDF].
1. Is it possible to file applications any time of the day?
In most cases the e-filing server at the RO/IB will be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An application completely received before midnight (Central European time) on a working day will be assigned that date as the date of receipt. (See PCT Rule 80.5 and 80.7.) Every effort will be made to carry out maintenance work and upgrades to the server during the morning in Geneva.
2. How can I verify that my electronic application was safely received?
Once the RO/IB server has established that the entire application package was received, it promptly transmits a receipt to the applicant, confirming the names of electronic files received, as well as the application number and the time and date of receipt.
3. Will I be notified if there was an error during the transmission?
Yes, upon receipt of the electronic application, the RO/IB server will perform several validation checks on the package and will send an error message if a problem is found.
4. How do I file a fully electronic application on physical media?
Save your application on a CD-R, DVD-R or a diskette (physical media types depend on the receiving Office selected). The medium chosen should be clearly labelled with the following indications: the name of each applicant, title of the invention, file reference, date of creation of the physical medium, if multiple media are used the order of the medium (e.g. 1 of 2, 2 of 2), indication of whether the medium is 'copy 1', 'copy 2', etc., an indication of the document type (e.g. backup copy). Each physical medium must also be accompanied by a transmittal letter on paper. This information and further details can be found in Appendix IV of Annex F [PDF] of the Administrative Instructions Under the PCT. Send your application to the RO/IB at WIPO, 34, chemin des Colombettes, P.O. Box 18, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland.
5. How can I check the application after submission ?
Open PCT-SAFE client and go to the 'Submitted' folder (left pane). Select the "By document" option from the "View field" pull-down menu at the top right corner the Submitted folder. Each of the submitted applications is listed and it is possible to expand the submission folder by clicking on the + next to the file reference. From here it is possible to view and print all submitted application files in PDF format.
1. Is it safe to file a patent application over the Internet?
To securely transmit international applications over the Internet, PCT-SAFE software relies on proven Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology which is widely employed to conduct financial and other e-commerce transactions. PCT-SAFE software ensures safe transmission of applications employing digital certificates, digital signatures and data encryption.
PCT applications are digitally signed before transmission to a PCT-SAFE server. A digital signature is a virtually non-forgeable transformation of data that permits, when used in conjunction with a digital certificate, verification of the origin and integrity of that data. Data encryption is carried out using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to ensure the confidentiality of the transmission. SSL also provides authentication services that automatically verify the party receiving the application data is valid, using digital certificates. PCT-SAFE servers will also encrypt all information they transmit back to the applicant.
The same requirements of authentication, integrity, confidentiality and non-repudiation also apply to the storage of electronically submitted applications.
2. How do I obtain a WIPO digital certificate?
You can apply for a WIPO Customer Certification Authority (CA) certificate in an simple online transaction through the Certificates page of our website. That page also contains guides that explain how to enroll, import and use a certificate. Please note that a certificate can only be issued for an individual and NOT in the name of a company.
3. Can I use a digital certificate obtained from another Office/Authority?
In most cases it is possible to use certificates granted by any certification authority whose certificate is recognized in accordance with the PCT electronic filing standard and accepted by the chosen receiving Office. Please check with your receiving Office as to accepted certification authorities, or consult our table on e-filing receiving Offices.
4. I forgot my WIPO certificate password - I lost my digital certificate - I believe my digital certificate was compromised. What do I do?
Revoke your certificate as soon as possible through the Certificates page of our website. At the same time you can apply for a new digital certificate. If the lost digital certificate is later found, do not use it but instead, delete the certificate from your computer.
5. Can I send my application without using a digital certificate?
Yes, when you submit your application on physical media, i.e. CD-R, DVD-R or diskette. A digital certificate is required to submit your application online over the Internet.
6. Can I use my digital certificate on more than one computer?
Yes, your certificate can be installed on several computers running PCT-SAFE.
7. Can others use my digital certificate?
No. The digital certificate is assigned to one individual and must be used by that person only. Please refer to the Subscriber Agreement (when enrolling for a certificate) on the Certificates page of our website.
1. How do I install PCT-SAFE?
You can download the software from the Download page or upon request, the PCT e-Services Help Desk will mail you a CD-ROM installation, it is free of charge. It is installed directly onto the hard drive of a PC, provided that a minimum system level is available (Windows NT, XP, Vista) and then operates as a stand-alone application.
To install the PCT-SAFE client software, download the installation file and run it from the local drive. During the installation the program group "PCT-SAFE" will be created, clicking on the "PCT-SAFE-FM" item in the program group "PCT-SAFE" will start the application.
To ensure that the PCT-SAFE software installs correctly users are advised not to modify the name of the installation file. Also, the target directory path (e.g. C:\PCT-SAFE) where PCT-SAFE is to be installed MUST NOT contain in its name any national characters (in particular, Japanese or Korean). This version of PCT-SAFE is a stand-alone installation. It should not be installed over a network or on a shared drive. The Export/Import functionality should be used for the purposes of sharing data and the creation of data backup.
If you also install the PCT-SAFE Editor, it is strongly recommended to install the PCT-SAFE client software first, and restart the computer, before installing the PCT-SAFE Editor.
Note: It is possible to password protect the PCT-SAFE software. Please note, however, that it is not possible for the PCT e-Services Help Desk to recover lost or forgotten passwords.
1. What are the minimum hardware requirements to use PCT-SAFE software?
- Intel® Celeron processor (600 MHz),
- RAM 256 MB,
- a minimum of 1 GB of hard disk free space,
- diskette drive for PCT-EASY type applications or for fully electronic applications, if accepted by the RO,
- CD-ROM or DVD drive for CD installation and generation of physical media filing,
- CD or DVD writer (if accepted by the RO, for saving PCT-EASY request form data and abstract, or for fully electronic PCT-SAFE applications, if not filed online),
- Internet connection with speed of 56K or above, for online filing.
2. What are the minimum software requirements for PCT-SAFE?
The PCT-SAFE Client software will run on Microsoft Windows® NT 4.0/XP/Vista/7. Please note, however, that the PCT-SAFE Editor is NOT Vista or Windows 7 compliant.
3. Do I need any other software with PCT-SAFE?
In order to view forms and documents as 'rendered for submission', you will need Adobe Acrobat or the free Adobe Reader, from version 7.x. NOTE: the PCT-SAFE client is not compatible with Adobe Acrobat X or Adobe Reader X (version 10), so please use an earlier version of the Adobe software (i.e. version 7, 8 or 9).
The PCT-SAFE Editor can run without PCT-SAFE client installed (for authors of application body documents who may not need to perform the submission). However, for the time being, PCT-SAFE client must also be installed to enable the Print and Print Preview functionality.
1. Is it possible to file electronically documents other than the application itself?
It is expected that various types of correspondence can be transmitted in electronic form in the future. In the current version of PCT-SAFE, it is possible to attach as Accompanying items ("Documents in pre-conversion format") the application documents (description, claims, abstract, drawings) in the format they were before conversion to PDF or XML.
For any questions, please contact the PCT e-Services Help Desk. The Help Desk is available Monday to Friday from 9:00 until 18:00 Central European time and every attempt will be made to respond to e-mail questions within one business day. This includes the services of the WIPO Certification Authority.
The Help Desk will be closed all Saturdays and Sundays as well as the following non-working days at WIPO, in 2011:
June 2 and 13