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PCT International Search and Preliminary Examination Guidelines


Chapter 1 Introduction

Purpose and Status of These Guidelines

1.01  These Guidelines give instructions as to the practice to be followed by Authorities during the international search and examination procedures.

1.02  The Guidelines are addressed primarily to the examiners in the various International Searching and Preliminary Examining Authorities but it is hoped that they will also be of assistance to applicants and patent practitioners. They also apply, where appropriate, to international-type searches (see paragraph 2.22). Moreover, the Guidelines may be useful to the patent Offices of the designated and elected States in the national phase in the searching and examination of the international application and in better understanding the international search and examination reports. Although the Guidelines deal with international applications, they may be used mutatis mutandis by national Offices in dealing with national applications if the national law so permits; also they may be used in revising national laws with the purpose of unification of current practices in patent Offices of various countries. They, however, do not generally cover the actions of the receiving Office, even though this might in some cases be the same Office as the International Searching Authority and/or the International Preliminary Examining Authority.

Articles 16(3)(b), 32, 33

1.03  These Guidelines are common rules of international search and examination that provide instructions regarding international search and examination and assist in the application of the provisions of the PCT, PCT Regulations and PCT Administrative Instructions relating to international search and examination. They are intended to cover typical occurrences. They should therefore be considered only as general directives; examiners will have to go beyond the instructions in exceptional cases. Nevertheless, applicants can expect the International Searching and Examining Authorities to act, as a general rule, in accordance with the Guidelines until such time as they are revised. In addition, at various points throughout these Guidelines, the examiner is directed to interpret a claim in a particular fashion. This has been done to enable the designated and/or elected Offices to understand the examiner’s conclusion as to novelty, inventive step (non-obviousness) and industrial application, and in no way binds the designated and/or elected Offices to adopt a similar interpretation. The Guidelines set forth standards for quality for the International Searching Authorities and the International Preliminary Examining Authorities to follow so as to minimize differences in the results of the search and examination process among the various Authorities.

1.04  The above criteria merely serve the purpose of international search and preliminary examination, and any Contracting State may apply additional or different criteria for the purpose of deciding whether, in that State, the claimed invention is patentable. It should be noted also that the Guidelines do not have the binding authority of a legal text. These Guidelines have been designed to assist International Searching and Examining Authorities in establishing international search and examination reports, in accordance with PCT Articles 17 and 18, written opinions in accordance with PCT Article 34 and Rule 43bis and international preliminary examination reports in accordance with PCT Article 35. For the ultimate authority on questions concerning international search and examination, it is necessary to refer to the PCT Articles themselves, interpreted, where necessary, by reference to the Minutes of the Washington Diplomatic Conference and interpretations given by the PCT Assembly. Any failure of an International Searching or Examining Authority to follow these Guidelines would not of itself constitute a basis for review of the action of the Authority except where such review is provided for under the applicable national law and practice.