WIPO Records Boom in Use of International PatentFiling System in 2001

Geneva, March 5, 2002
Press Updates UPD/2002/160

An unprecedented number of applications were received by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2001 under an international filing system that facilitates the process of obtaining patents in multiple countries. Nearly 104,000 international applications were filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), representing a 14.3% increase on the number received in 2000. It is also the first time ever that the number of international applications has exceeded the 100,000 mark in a single year.

In addition, use of the PCT by developing countries increased by 70.6% last year. The number of such international applications received rose from 680 in 1997 to 5,379 in 2001, representing a 791% increase in use of the system by applicants from developing countries. In 2001, the highest percentage increases by developing countries were recorded by China (188.4%), India (102.6%), the Republic of Korea (53.1%) and Mexico (50.7%). Of the 115 contracting states of the PCT, 61 are developing countries.

"Last year's performance of the PCT in developing countries, underlines that the intellectual property system is of value to countries committed to promoting sustained economic growth and improved living standards" said Dr. Kamil Idris, WIPO Director General. "In the absence of this system applicants would have been required to file separate applications nationally or regionally, involving considerable cost and effort," he added.

For the eleventh consecutive year, inventors and industry from United States of America (38.5% of all applications in 2001), Germany (13.1%), Japan (11.4%), the United Kingdom (6.0%) and France (4.4%), topped the list of biggest users of the system.

Expanding PCT membership

In 2001, membership of the PCT rose to 115 states as seven new countries became bound by the PCT, namely, Colombia, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Philippines, Oman, Zambia and Tunisia.

Fee reductions

For the fifth consecutive year, PCT member states decided to further decrease the maximum number of country designation fees payable from six to five with effect from January 1, 2002, resulting in considerable savings for applicants. For the period between 1997 and 2003, PCT filing fees - for applicants using the most common filing strategy - will have been reduced on average by 45%.

Rule and procedure changes

In the course of 2001, a number of changes to PCT rules and procedures were approved which introduce greater flexibility into the system making it more efficient and user-friendly for both applicants and national and regional offices. These include:

  • Modification of the time limit for entering the national phase from 20 to 30 months from the priority date which will come into effect on April 1, 2002. The national phase is the second of the two main phases of the PCT procedure. It follows the international phase and is the stage at which an international application is processed by some or all of the national or regional offices designated in the international application. Certain countries have postponed the introduction of this modification because of the need to change national legislation.
  • Applicants in the field of biotechnology submitting international applications containing lengthy nucleotide and/or amino acid sequence listings will benefit from lower fees if they choose to submit such sequence listings on an electronic medium (sequence listings submitted in this way are now only published electronically). New PCT rules introduced in January 2001 generate significant practical benefits for applicants and authorities responsible for processing such applications.
  • As of March 1, 2001, it became possible for applicants to submit in the international phase certain declarations required by offices in the national phase. This will simplify the national phase for both applicants and national/regional offices.

Reform of the PCT

In 2001, discussions on measures to reform the PCT gathered pace. At its November meeting, the Working Group on Reform of the PCT discussed proposals for an expanded international search procedure and reform of the designation system. The reform of the designation system would mean that an international application would automatically have the effect of designating all PCT member countries at a single "flat" international filing fee. In this way, all decisions by the applicant as to the countries in which protection is sought would be deferred to the national phase. It was also agreed to incorporate certain principles outlined in the Patent Law Treaty (PLT) into the PCT so that the benefits available for national applications are also available to applicants and offices for the filing and processing of international applications. It is expected that the first proposals for reform-related amendments to the PCT Regulations will be submitted to the PCT Assembly in September 2002.

International Searching and Preliminary Examining Authorities

The Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, which has been an International Searching Authority since 1993, was appointed as an International Preliminary Examining Authority (IPEA). That office will become the 10th to function as an IPEA under the PCT. The appointment, which will be of particular benefit to Spanish-speaking applicants, is expected to have effect later in 2002.

Developments in PCT Automation

In 2001, work continued on the PCT IMPACT (Information Management for the PAtent Cooperation Treaty) Project. Through the establishment of new systems for the electronic processing of international applications, this project will generate significant efficiency gains and cost savings in the publication and information dissemination activities associated with international applications.

Progress was also made on the PCT electronic filing project, known as "PCT-SAFE" (Secure Applications Filed Electronically). The PCT-SAFE project has two objectives: the adoption of a standard for the electronic filing and processing of international applications and the development of a system for the electronic filing of international applications. The first of these objectives was met in 2001 with the publication of the legal framework and technical standard necessary to enable the implementation of electronic filing and processing of international applications. Progress towards the development of a system for electronic filing of international applications, which is expected to be fully operational in December 2003, has been steady.

PCT-EASY (Electronic Application System)

Since its launch in 1999, the number of applicants using PCT-EASY software rose to 7,500 registered users in 2001, representing a 50% increase over 2000. This tool offers applicants a number of advantages in ensuring that the request part of international applications conform to PCT requirements and in cost-savings. Of the 103,947 international applications filed in 2001, 36,428 (35%) contained a request which was prepared using the PCT-EASY software. As many as 65 receiving offices (out of the 86 PCT receiving offices) now accept international applications using PCT-EASY software.

Breakdown according to IPC categories

Below is a breakdown of PCT applications filed in 2001, according to the eight main technical fields of the International Patent Classification (IPC) System:

Physics 20.9%
Chemistry; metallurgy 20.8%
Electricity 18.2%
Human necessities 16.9%
Performing operations; transporting 13.4%
Mechanical engineering; lighting,
heating, weapons, blasting 5.9%
Fixed constructions 2.6%
Textiles; paper 1.3%


The PCT system offers inventors and industry an advantageous route for obtaining patent protection internationally. By filing one "international" patent application under the PCT, protection for an invention can be sought simultaneously in each of a large number of countries. Both applicants and patent Offices of PCT member states benefit from the uniform formality requirements, the international search and preliminary examination reports, and the centralized international publication provided by the PCT system. The national patent granting procedure and the related high expenses are postponed, in the majority of cases, by up to 18 months (or even longer in the case of some offices) as compared with the traditional patent system. By this time the applicant will have received important value-added information concerning the likelihood of obtaining patent protection as well as potential commercial interest in that invention.

For further information on the PCT and its activities, please refer to https://www.wipo.int/pct/en/ and/or contact the Media Relations & Public Affairs Section at WIPO:

  • Tel: (+41 22) - 338 81 61 or 338 95 47
  • Fax: (+41 22) - 338 88 10
  • Email: publicinf@wipo.int.