PCT reaches 150 Member States
On June 23, 2016, WIPO welcomed the accession of the 150th Member State to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) when the Minister Delegate to the Ministry of Economy and Finance in charge of Trade, SMEs, Handicrafts and Tourism, Djibouti, Hassan Houmed Ibrahim deposited his State’s instrument of accession to the PCT. The Treaty will enter into force for Djibouti on September 23, 2016.
“We are glad and pleased to be joining the PCT. This will stimulate our country’s innovators to explore business opportunities globally and facilitate the seeking of patent protection in our country by inventors from abroad.” – Hassan Houmed Ibrahim, Minister Delegate to the Ministry of Economy and Finance in charge of Trade, SMEs, Handicrafts, Tourism and Formalization, Republic of Djibouti.
“With the accession of Djibouti, WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) has reached the significant milestone of 150 Member States. The PCT has been a remarkable success story since it commenced operations over 38 years ago, moving from modest beginnings to quickly becoming the central node of the international patent system and one of the most successful examples of multilateral cooperation between Member States. Thanks to continued joint efforts and engagement by all PCT stakeholders aimed at constantly improving the system to meet stakeholders’ needs, I have every reason to believe that the PCT’s success story will continue in the years to come.” – Francis Gurry, WIPO Director General.
Road to 150
The PCT began operating in 1978 with 18 Contracting States. Since then the PCT System has grown (in terms of Member States and applications filed) to become arguably the most successful example of concrete international cooperation in the intellectual property world, and it continues to be valued as a tool which assists innovators in exploring the possibilities for potential multinational patent protection in a cost-effective manner. On average, between three and four countries have joined the PCT every year since 1978 (132 countries in 38 years). Each new country provides PCT applicants with additional options for seeking patent protection.
Growth in membership of the PCT
(January 24, 1978 to September 23, 2016)
During the last 38 years, the PCT has become an integral element—some would say the backbone—of the international patent system. Its growth has been remarkable—now with 150 Contracting States and almost 220,000 applications filed in 2015, and continuing to grow at a healthy rate. Numbers of PCT applications filed have grown every year except one over the last 38 years.1
Growth in PCT applications
(1978 - 2015)
One of the PCT’s benefits for applicants is the information contained in the prior art search results and patentability analysis which they receive early during the PCT international phase, and which assists them in making informed decisions about entering the national phase. But that same value-added information was also intended by the “founding fathers” of the PCT to assist the “designated Offices” in the national phase in expeditiously coming to conclusions about whether to grant or refuse the patent in accordance with the national law, and to help avoid duplication of the search and analysis work previously done. The PCT’s architects intended that each PCT application would enter the national phase accompanied by these high quality, standardized reports, thus giving each of the national (or regional) patent Offices a boost in their own work, a “flying start,”2 as it were. This important worksharing aspect of the PCT System fosters international cooperation and collaboration between Offices granting patents in various countries, assisting them as they seek to process patent applications efficiently and effectively. And it provides this “flying start” for Offices while at the same time completely respecting national sovereignty in that the decision of whether or not to grant patents remains the prerogative of the competent national or regional patent Offices.
- The impact of the global financial crisis on corporate research and development budgets, and thus on patent spending, in 2009 resulted in the only negative growth year in the PCT’s history.
- Document PCT/PCD/2, October 16, 1970 (Summary and Advantages of the Patent Cooperation Treaty), paragraph 87 (published as part of the Records of the Washington Diplomatic Conference on the Patent Cooperation Treaty).