December 2017 | No. 12/2017


Availability on PATENTSCOPE of original application content containing color or greyscale

Although color elements are not generally permitted in international applications, there has been much discussion, in particular within the framework of the PCT Working Group, about the future possibility of the acceptance of color elements during the international phase.  The International Bureau (IB) continues to work on adapting systems to allow the processing of color elements.  In the meantime, recognizing that such elements are already sometimes received, an interim measure has been put in place which is detailed in paragraphs 11 to 15 of document PCT/WG/9/19 (“Color Drawings”) at:


In view of these discussions, the recently released versions of ePCT‑Filing and PCT‑SAFE (see “ePCT Update” and “PCT‑SAFE Update”, below) contain features that permit applicants filing their applications in electronic form to check a box to indicate that the “application body” (description, claims, abstract, and/or drawings) contains color or greyscale elements.  In cases where this box is checked, the front page of the published application will contain a notice indicating that the application as filed included color or greyscale content and that the original files are available from PATENTSCOPE.

In ePCT, the box is automatically checked by the system if color or greyscale is detected in the application body files that are uploaded, although the box can be unchecked manually in any exceptional cases where the user determines that the system detected this in error.  In PCT‑SAFE, the box is not checked automatically and the user has to do so manually, although there continues to be a validation warning that the drawings are not, but should be, in black and white.

Please note that this does not mean that color elements are now permitted in international applications, nor that they can or will be processed effectively.  Rather, this procedure simply recognizes that, in reality, many applications as filed already contain such color or greyscale elements that designated Offices may need to consult in order to decide what is acceptable for the purpose of national phase processing according to their national laws and procedures.

Consequently, applicants are strongly advised to continue to prepare and submit their international applications in black and white formats to the extent possible, bearing in mind the following:

  • the checkbox is not available in all cases. For filings prepared using PCT‑SAFE, the checkbox feature will be activated only as of 1 January 2018, and only for filings to the IB as receiving Office.  In ePCT, the checkbox feature is already functional, but only for applications where the application body files are uploaded and submitted online via ePCT (this therefore excludes the packages created for filing to the Israel Patent Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office that are uploaded to those receiving Office using separate systems).
  • all international applications will continue to be converted to pure black and white formats for further processing and publication by the IB, resulting in all distinctions as to color being lost, including shades of grey;
  • most national phase procedures still require pure black and white content for the application body; even if the designated Office can access via PATENTSCOPE the version which was originally filed, it may remain difficult or impossible to subsequently produce an acceptable black and white version without new subject matter being considered to have been added;
  • an application body (in particular the drawings) which appears to the human eye to be black and white may still be detected as color or greyscale by electronic systems if it was not saved as a pure black and white file format. In most cases, the conversion to black and white will result in an accurate output, but there is always a risk that the conversion might cause an original apparently black line to be dotted or, occasionally, even missing.  At the time of uploading files in ePCT, a warning is displayed to the user if the system detects that a file is not in pure black and white format.  The user is prompted to use a dedicated preview function in order to view the file content as it will be rendered by the IB for subsequent processing and publication, in order to verify that the content of the converted images is as intended. 
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