The aim of the Patent Law Treaty (PLT) is to harmonize and streamline formal procedures in respect of national and regional patent applications and patents and, thus, to make such procedures more user friendly. With the significant exception of filing date requirements, the PLT provides the maximum sets of requirements the office of a Contracting Party may apply. This means that a Contracting Party is free to provide for requirements that are more generous from the viewpoint of applicants and owners, but that the requirements under the PLT are mandatory as to the maximum an office can require from applicants or owners. The Treaty contains, in particular, provisions on the following issues:
- Requirements for obtaining a filing date were standardized in order to minimize the risks that applicants could inadvertently lose the filing date, which is of utmost importance in the patent procedure. The PLT requires that the office of any Contracting Party must accord a filing date to an application upon compliance with three simple formal requirements: first, an indication that the elements received by the office are intended to be an application for a patent for an invention; second, indications that would allow the office to identify or to contact the applicant (however, a Contracting Party is allowed to require indications on both); third, a part which appears to be a description of the invention. No additional elements can be required for according a filing date. In particular, a Contracting Party cannot include one or more claims or a filing fee in a filing date requirement. As mentioned above, these requirements are not maximum requirements but constitute absolute requirements, so that a Contracting Party would not be allowed to accord a filing date unless all those requirements are complied with.
- A set of formal requirements for national and regional applications was standardized by incorporating into the PLT the requirements relating to form or content of international applications under the PCT, including the contents of the PCT request Form and the use of that request Form accompanied by an indication that the application is to be treated as a national application. This eliminates or reduces procedural gaps between national, regional and international patent systems.
- The standardized Model International Forms that have to be accepted by the offices of all Contracting Parties were established.
- A number of procedures before patent offices were simplified, which contributes to a reduction in costs for applicants as well as for offices. Examples of such procedures are exceptions from mandatory representation, the restriction on requiring evidence on a systematic basis, the requirement that offices accept a single communication covering more than one application or patent in certain cases (e.g., a single power of attorney) or the restriction on the requirement to submit a copy of an earlier application and a translation thereof.
- The PLT provides procedures for avoiding the unintentional loss of substantive rights resulting from failure to comply with formality requirements or time limits. These include the obligation that offices notify the applicant or other concerned person, extensions of time limits, continued processing, reinstatement of rights, and restrictions on revocation/invalidation of a patent for formal defects, where they were not noticed by the office during the application stage.
- The implementation of electronic filing is facilitated, while ensuring the co-existence of both paper and electronic communications. The PLT provides that Contracting Parties were allowed to exclude paper communications and to fully switch to electronic communications as of June 2, 2005. However, even after that date, they have to accept paper communications for the purpose of obtaining a filing date and for meeting a time limit. In this connection, the Agreed Statement stipulates that industrialized countries will continue to furnish support to developing countries and countries in transition in relation to the introduction of electronic filing.
The PLT was concluded in 2000, and entered into force in 2005.
The PLT is open to States members of WIPO and/or States party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883). It is also open to certain intergovernmental organizations. Instruments of ratification or accession must be deposited with the Director General of WIPO.