Summary of the Patent Law Treaty (2000)
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 the filing date requirements, the PLT provides maximum sets of requirements, which 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 are mandatory as to the maximum that 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 for applicants to minimize the loss of the filing date, which is of utmost importance in the entire procedure. The PLT requires that the Office of any Contracting Party must accord a filing date to an application on 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 a filing date to be accorded. In particular, a Contracting Party cannot require one or more claims or a filing fee as 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 were standardized by the incorporation into the PLT of the requirements relating to form or contents 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 national application. This will eliminate or reduce procedural gaps between national, regional and international patent systems;
- The establishment of standardized Model International Forms was agreed upon, which will have to be accepted by the Offices of all Contracting Parties;
- A number of procedures before the patent Offices were simplified, which will contribute to a reduction of costs for applicants as well as for the Offices. Examples for such procedures are the exceptions from mandatory representation, the restriction on requiring evidence on a systematic basis, the requirement for Offices to accept a single communication in certain cases (e.g. 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 the avoidance of unintentional loss of substantive rights as a result of the failure to comply with formality requirements or time limits. These include the obligation of Offices to notify the applicant or other concerned person, extension 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 are allowed to exclude paper communications and to fully switch to electronic communications after June 2, 2005. However, even after that date, they will 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 for the introduction of electronic filing.
The PLT was concluded on June 1, 2000, and is open to States members of WIPO and/or States parties to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. It is also open to certain intergovernmental organizations. Instruments of ratification or accession must be deposited with the Director General of WIPO. The PLT entered into force on April 28, 2005.