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PCT International Search and Preliminary Examination Guidelines


Chapter 15 The International Search

Objective of the International Search and Supplementary International Search

Article 15(2), (4); Rules 33.1(a), 34

15.01  The objective of the international search is to discover relevant prior art, which consists of everything which has been made available to the public anywhere in the world by means of written disclosure (including drawings and other illustrations) (see Chapter 11) and which is capable of being of assistance in determining that the claimed invention is or is not new (see Chapter 12) and that it does or does not involve an inventive step (that is, that it is or is not obvious; see Chapter 13), provided that the making available to the public occurred prior to the international filing date. The International Searching Authority endeavors to discover as much of the relevant prior art as its facilities permit, and in any case consults the minimum documentation specified in Rule 34.

15.02  In order to establish the international search report, International Searching Authorities are also encouraged to cite prior art documents which might be of assistance in determining whether other requirements such as sufficiency, support and industrial applicability are fulfilled.

15.03 The search must recognize that certain designated Offices have different definitions of what is the effective date of the prior art. Accordingly, when performing the search, examiners should be mindful to pick out and select for citation, where appropriate, prior art which may be relevant in Offices other than the one in which they are situated. However, the examiner need not expand the search beyond the standard search parameters to discover such art. Where the search has been performed and such potentially relevant prior art has been identified, examiners are encouraged to, for example, cite all relevant art published prior to the international filing date even if that art and the international application under consideration have common applicants and/or inventors. Examiners should follow Article 11(3) in conducting the search, even if an Article 64(4) reservation exists.

15.04 A further objective of the international search is to avoid, or at least minimize, additional searching at the national stage.

Non-Written Disclosures

Rule 33.1(b)

15.05 A non-written disclosure such as an oral disclosure, use, exhibition or other means of disclosure is not relevant prior art for the purposes of the international search unless it is substantiated by a written disclosure made available to the public prior to the international filing date and it is the written disclosure which constitutes the prior art. However, if the date on which the written disclosure was made available to the public was on or after the filing date of the international application under consideration, the search report should separately mention that fact and the date on which the written disclosure was available, even though such a written disclosure does not meet the definition of relevant prior art in the international phase, so long as the non-written disclosure was made available to the public on a date prior to the international filing date (see paragraph 11.22) since such a non-written disclosure may be considered to be prior art under national law in the national phase.

Geographical Location, Language, Age and Manner of Disclosure

15.06 It is to be noted that there is no restriction whatever with respect to the geographical place where, or the language or manner in which, the relevant information was made available to the public; also no age limit is stipulated with respect to documents containing this information.

15.07 Documents issued electronically are considered published provided they are retrievable (see paragraphs 11.12 to 11.20).