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PCT Receiving Office Guidelines

Chapter VI: Article 14 Check and Other Formal Requirements

Compliance with the Physical Requirements Referred to in Rule 11


132. The international application must comply to the extent provided for in the Regulations with the prescribed physical requirements (Article 14(1)(a)(v)). Those physical requirements are set out in Rule 11 and relate to fitness for reproduction, size and numbering of sheets, margins, writing of text matter, drawings, etc. The physical requirements of Rules 10 and 11.1 to 11.13 also apply to any other document (for example replacement sheets, amended claims, translations) submitted after the filing of the international application (Rule 11.14).

133. Where the international application is filed in a language of publication (Rule 48.3(a) and paragraph 55), the receiving Office checks whether the application complies with physical requirements to the extent that compliance therewith is necessary for the purpose of reasonably uniform international publication (Rule 26.3(a)(i)) including image scanning and optical character recognition (OCR) by the International Bureau, as outlined in paragraphs 139 to 146.

134. Where the international application is filed in a language of publication (Rule 48.3(a)) but a translation is furnished under Rule 12.3 for the purposes of international search (paragraphs 66 to 71), that translation is checked for compliance with the physical requirements referred to in Rule 11 only to the extent that compliance therewith is necessary for the purpose of satisfactory reproduction (Rule 26.3(a)(ii)), since the sheets of the translation will not be used for the purposes of international publication. The receiving Office checks that the sheets are so presented as to admit of direct reproduction by photocopy, scanning or other means in accordance with Rule 11.2 and that the print is dark and well contrasted (Rule 11.9(d)).

135. Where the international application is filed in a language which is not a language of publication, in which case not the original text but a translation furnished by the applicant under Rule 12.3 or 12.4 will be published, the receiving Office checks that original text of the international application for compliance with the physical requirements referred to in Rule 11 only to the extent that compliance therewith is necessary for the purposes of satisfactory reproduction (Rule 26.3(b)(i) and paragraph 134). The translation and the drawings in the language of publication are checked for compliance with the physical requirements referred to in Rule 11 to the extent that compliance is necessary for the purpose of reasonably uniform international publication (Rule 26.3(b)(ii)), including image scanning and OCR by the International Bureau. This also applies where the applicant has furnished a translation of the abstract or drawings containing the translation of text matter into the language in which the international application is to be published (Rule 26.3ter(a)).

136. Where a translation is required under Rule 12.3 or 12.4 and drawings which are filed with the original of the international application do not contain text matter, such drawings need not be filed again with the translation.

137. Where the applicant must furnish a translation of the abstract or any text matter of the drawings into a language of publication, the provisions relating to defects under Article 14, including checking of physical requirements, apply mutatis mutandis (Rule 26.3ter(a)).

138. If the international application does not meet the physical requirements as outlined in the preceding paragraphs, the receiving Office invites (Form PCT/RO/106) the applicant to correct any defect as provided for in Rule 26 (paragraphs 153 to 159). 





















139. Arrangement of Elements and Numbering of Sheets. The elements of the international application must be placed in the following order: the request, the description (excluding the sequence listing part of the description), the claim(s), the abstract and the drawings (if any). All sheets constituting the international application must be numbered in consecutive Arabic numerals with the following separate series of numbering: the first applying to the request only and commencing with the first sheet of the request; the second series commencing with the first sheet of the description and continuing through the claims until the last sheet of the abstract;  and if applicable, a third series applying to the sheets of the drawings only. The number of each sheet of the drawings must consist of two sets of Arabic numerals separated by a slant, the first set being the sheet number and the second set being the total number of sheets of drawings (for example, 1/3, 2/3, 3/3); see Rule 11.7 and Section 207. While Rule 11.7(b) indicates that the numbers must be centered at the top or bottom of the sheet, but not placed in the margin, objections to non-compliance with this specific limitation is unnecessary where the numbers appear in the top or bottom margins but do not interfere with the areas where the receiving Office stamps the sheets with the international application number, date of receipt and any indications relating to substitute sheets.  Any sequence listing part of the description must be presented as a separate ST.26 XML file.

140. Where sheets filed on the international filing date but not numbered as part of the international application are intended to be part of the international application, the receiving Office may renumber the sheets ex officio (paragraphs 161 to 165), failing which the International Bureau will do so.

141. Writing of Text Matter. The request, the description, the claims and the abstract shall be typed or printed in a dark indelible color (Rule 11.9; for the request see also the Notes to the request form). This is very important for the description, claims and abstract because these parts are subject to OCR which does not work effectively on handwriting or light colored text. However, graphic symbols, chemical and mathematical formulae and certain characters in the Chinese or Japanese languages may be hand drawn. The text must be printed in letters the capitals of which are not less than 0.28cm high (Rule 11.9(d)). This equates to approximately 12 point text in Times New Roman font and is important because smaller text is much less reliable for image scanning and OCR. Rule 11.9(c) requires that the typing is 1½ spaced, but this need only be enforced to the extent that the lines of text are clearly separated from one another such that there is a definite vertical gap between the tops of letters and the lower part of letters on the line above. Moreover, indications (in particular, the marking of check-boxes) in the request form, that are, not machine printed should not be objected to if they are legible. Although the request is not published as such, details such as applicant/inventor’s names and addresses are captured by OCR at the International Bureau for the purposes of international publication; therefore, Receiving Offices should, in their contacts with applicants, encourage them to respect similar guidelines for text matter in the request as in the description, claims and abstract, but without going as far as objecting to text matter in the request form, provided that it is sufficiently legible so as to allow correct data capture.

142. Requirements Concerning Margins. Rule 11.6 prescribes certain minimum requirements for the margins of the sheets containing the description, the claims and the abstract. (top, bottom and right sides: 2cm; left side: 2.5cm). These requirements only need to be checked to the extent necessary to ensure that information is not lost in scanning and, in the case of pages of the description, claims and abstracts filed in a language of publication or in the case of translations furnished under Rule 12.4 for the purposes of international publication, to ensure that image scanning and OCR can be carried out efficiently for the publication of the full text version of the international application. The area normally selected for OCR is based on the “ideal” margins as shown in the diagram above (inserted between paragraphs 138 and 139) in order to separate the text of the description and claims from the administrative text in the margins. However, as long as there is a clear gap between the main text and matter in the margins, it is generally easier for the International Bureau to adjust the original images to permit effective scanning than to deal with replacement sheets. Consequently, replacement sheets should only be requested for major defects. In practice, this means that there must be sufficient space to add any necessary stamps to the page (such as the international application number or an indication that a page is a replacement sheet) and still to have at least 0.5cm of blank space around the edge to avoid any information being lost if the page is not perfectly aligned when it is scanned (see diagram below). This means that the top margin is quite important, but that the left, right and (for originally filed sheets) bottom margins do not need to be checked carefully as long as any line numbers in the left margin remain well separated from the main text. Sheets with letterheads or stamps with names and addresses of applicants or agents may not be used. Text matter originally prepared on a sheet which is reduced by photocopier to meet the A4 paper size requirements is only acceptable if the margins and character size on the A4 copy comply with the provisions of Rules 11.6 and 11.9(d).











143. The indication of the applicant’s file reference, if any, on pages of the international application other than the first sheet of the request causes no problem so far as international publication is concerned, provided that the reference is placed in the left-hand corner of the top margin, within 1.5 cm from the top of the sheet. During the technical preparations for international publication, the top portion of all sheets of the international application is covered by a mask containing the pre-printed international publication number (for example, WO 2004/123456) (Section 404) and international application number. A reference placed as prescribed will be masked and will therefore not appear in the published international application, nor will it interfere with the OCR process.

144. Line Numbering Sequence. Rule 11.8(a) strongly recommends that “every fifth line of each sheet of the description, and of each sheet of claims” be numbered, the numbers appearing in the right half of the left margin, but that is not a mandatory requirement and in fact it is more useful for modern publication and identification of particular passages from databases storing the text rather than images if the paragraphs, rather than the lines, are numbered. If lines are not numbered or are numbered according to a sequence different from that recommended in Rule 11.8(a), there is no basis for objection with regard to the requirements of reasonably uniform international publication (Rule 26.3(a)). The only reason for objection to line numbering is if it appears somewhere other than the left margin or if there is not a clear gap between the numbering and the main text. 

145. Other Physical Requirements Concerning Text. For reasonably uniform international publication and, in particular, to allow image scanning and OCR, it is important that text matter in the description, claims and abstract should not be presented in more than one column. Furthermore, the text should not be askew (however, text askew by not more than 5 mm is generally acceptable since it can be corrected by the International Bureau for image scanning and OCR). The description claims and abstract may not contain drawings but may contain chemical or mathematical formulae and/or tables to the extent provided under Rule 11.10.

146. Drawings and Photographs. Flow sheets and diagrams are considered drawings (Rule 7.1). The Regulations are silent with regard to photographs. Photographs may be filed where it is impossible to represent in a drawing what is to be shown. Where photographs are submitted, they must be presented on sheets of A4 size, respect the minimum margins applicable for drawings (top and left sides: 2.5cm; right side: 1.5cm; bottom: 1cm, but as with text pages, there is some flexibility and the top and left side margins do not need to be enforced strictly as long as there is sufficient room to add the necessary information in the margins such as the international application number) and be black and white; they may be submitted as originals. Regarding the standard to be applied in respect of drawings, including photographs, see Rules 11.10, 11.11, 11.13 and also the PCT Applicant’s Guide, Chapter V.