November 2019 | No. 11/2019


International Bureau to Retain Certain Fax Services

It is recalled that in January 2018, the International Bureau (IB) was obliged to move to a different and potentially less reliable technology for the provision of its fax services (see PCT Newsletter No. 12/2017).  In September 2018, the IB consulted Member States and user groups on a proposed decommissioning of PCT fax services at the IB, and in May 2019, announced that PCT fax services would end as of December 2019.  Since that announcement, a number of PCT users, user representatives and associations of user representatives have raised concerns about the consequences of the proposed end of PCT fax services at the IB, in particular, in the exceptional situation where the computer systems used by the applicant or agent are unable to be used for transmitting PCT documents through established online mechanisms.  In response to those concerns, the IB will not end its fax services as of the end of December 2019, as previously announced.  However, only a limited fax service will be maintained with the intention that applicants and Offices use it only in emergency situations, noting that:

  • the IB highly recommends that PCT applicants (and PCT Offices and Authorities) use ePCT (https://pct.wipo.int) to communicate with the IB or, in cases where ePCT is unavailable, the Contingency Upload Service1 (https://pct.wipo.int/ePCTExternal/pages/UploadDocument.xhtml);
  • use of fax for transmitting documents to the IB is at the sender’s own risk, noting the technical unreliability of this means of transmission which has been described in previous messages, and because PCT Rule 92.4(c) makes clear that documents submitted via fax “shall be treated as not having been received to the extent that the received document is illegible or that the attempted transmission failed”;
  • when fax transmission is considered to be indispensable, faxes should be sent to the IB at the numbers which can be found on the PCT website (see “Contacts” at: wipo.int/pct/en).  No specific acknowledgement of receipt of faxes will be sent by the IB but it will endeavor to process documents received by fax as soon as possible;
  • if it is your intention to send a fax to the IB and/or IB as receiving Office (RO/IB) and if it is during the regular business hours of the IB (9.00 to 18.00, Central European Time), it is recommended that, before sending the fax, you contact by telephone the “authorized officer” indicated on the PCT forms to inform them that you plan to send a fax (the telephone number can be found at: https://pct.wipo.int/ePCTExternal/pages/TeamLookup.xhtml).  If it is outside of business hours at the IB, you can leave a message on the answering machine so that the authorized officer can follow up on receipt of the fax on the next working day.  If you do, exceptionally, send documents to the IB and/or RO/IB by fax, it will still be necessary to furnish the original of the document within 14 days from the date of transmission if the document concerned is the international application or a replacement sheet containing corrections or amendments of the international application; and
  • it will no longer be possible to send a fax to the PCT Information Service. General questions or inquiries in relation to the PCT can be sent by e‑mail to: pct.infoline@wipo.int or you can call:  (+41-22) 338 83 38.

In international applications in relation to which authorization to send notifications via e‑mail has not been given by the applicant, the practice of the RO/IB has been up to now to send the most urgent and important receiving Office forms by fax.  From 1 January 2020, the RO/IB will no longer send these forms by fax, but only by postal mail, noting that, if you have access to your international applications in ePCT, you can consult all forms as of the moment they are issued, including also the forms issued by the IB.

We appreciate the constructive dialogue with, and engagement of, the PCT user community on this issue.

  1. Further information is available at :  www.wipo.int/pct/en/faqs/contingency_upload_faq.html