WIPO Registers Record Number of PCT Filingsin 1999

Geneva, February 25, 2000
Press Updates UPD/2000/86

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) received a record number of filings in 1999 under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), a global system designed to facilitate the process of obtaining patent protection in any or all of its 107 member states. Just over 74,000 international applications, representing the notional equivalent of some 5.8 million national patent applications, were filed in 1999 - a 10.5% increase on the previous year's performance. Those 74,023 applications have such a broad potential effect because when filing an international application, a PCT applicant designates those states in which protection is sought. Prospects for future growth are also promising in the light of recent fee reductions and ongoing efforts to make the use of the PCT increasingly safe, easy and efficient (notably through use of information technology) for patent applicants and national patent Offices.

Welcoming this positive trend, WIPO Director General, Dr. Kamil Idris, said, "the continued vigorous growth in the use of the PCT mechanism in 1999 is a strong indication of the value and usefulness of this service to the private sector". "The PCT offers applicants a truly cost-effective and simple business solution to obtaining protection for their inventions in multiple countries", he said.

Applicants from industrialized countries continued to be the main users of the PCT, although statistics show positive growth in the use of the system by an increasing number of users in developing countries. Inventors and industry in the United States were the biggest users of the PCT in 1999, with 39.8% of all applications, followed by Germany (14.7%), Japan (9.8%), United Kingdom (6.4%) and France (4.9%), mirroring the 1998 trend.

In 1999, WIPO continued to promote accession to the PCT and to raise awareness of the benefits of the system to inventors from developing countries and economies in transition. "We still have much work to do to promote widespread accession and use of the PCT by developing countries" Dr. Idris said, "we are, however, greatly encouraged by the fact that a larger number of developing countries used the system in 1999" he added.

In 1999 a further six countries - all developing nations - joined the PCT, namely, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Costa Rica, Dominica, the United Republic of Tanzania and Morocco. Two additional States, Algeria and Antigua and Barbuda also joined the PCT in December 1999 but will not be bound by the Treaty until March 2000.

The ten developing countries in which the highest number of international applications was filed in 1999 were the Republic of Korea, South Africa, China, Singapore, Brazil, India, Mexico, Barbados, Cuba, and Indonesia. A total of 1,745 international applications were filed by inventors and industry in developing countries in 1999 which compared very favorably with 1998.

By filing only one international application, the PCT user can obtain the effect of regular national patent applications in any or all of the States that have joined the PCT without initially having to furnish a translation of the application in the local language or pay national fees. The national patent granting procedure and the related costs are postponed, in the majority of cases by up to 18 months (or even longer in the case of some Offices). The PCT system offers to patent applicants a user-friendly and cost-effective route for filing their patent applications in many countries.

Breakdown According to IPC Categories

Below is the breakdown of PCT applications according to the subject matter categories listed in the International Patent Classification (IPC), a worldwide patent classification system for technology fields.

Chemistry; metallurgy 21.1%

Human necessities 19.1%

Electricity 16.9%

Physics 16.0%

Performing operations; transporting 15.7%

Mechanical engineering; lighting; heating; weapons; blasting 6.7%

Fixed constructions 2.9%

Textiles; paper 1.6%

For further information on the IPC, please refer to http://classifications.wipo.int.

Fee Reductions

In 1999, member States decided to further cut PCT fees by an average of 13 per cent, effective January 1, 2000. The cumulative effect of this measure (including two earlier PCT fee reductions in 1998 and 1999) means a 29.2 per cent reduction in the cost of PCT filings.

Automation of the PCT

In 1999, WIPO launched a 40-million Swiss franc project to fully automate the operations of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The project, known by the acronym IMPACT (Information Management for the PAtent Cooperation Treaty), is designed to take full advantage of information technology to provide improved services to PCT applicants and has as one of its ultimate goals the reduction of PCT fees through the lowering of operating costs. Since international applications contain valuable technical information, the public also stands to gain from this transformation by being able to access more PCT information in electronic, searchable form. The IMPACT project is the largest single information technology project ever undertaken by WIPO and its success is a priority for the Organization. The overall project is expected to be completed in 3 to 4 years, with the first components of the new system being delivered towards the end of this year.

The PCT-EASY software (Electronic Application SYstem) was released for the filing of international applications with selected receiving offices in January 1999. This software facilitates the preparation of international applications and other related documents and enables applicants, through the use of 200 validation checks, to avoid making mistakes at the filing stage. This software is available in Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish and can be downloaded from the Internet from the PCT-EASY homepage (http://pcteasy.wipo.int). Thirteen per cent of the international applications filed in 1999 were prepared using the PCT-EASY software. In the second half of the year, this figure rose to 18.8%.

Expansion of Possibilities for Priority Claims

The PCT member states also brought the PCT rules relating to priority claims into line with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) administered by the World Trade Organization. As a result, from January 1, 2000, it became possible, to claim the priority of an application filed in or for any member of the WTO that is not party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

For further details, see the information note "Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in 1999" or contact the Media Relations & Public Affairs Section at WIPO: