WIPO Launches Electronic Filing of International Patent Applications

Geneva, February 11, 2004
Press Releases PR/2004/374

Companies and inventors seeking patent protection in multiple countries will, from February 12, 2004, have the possibility to electronically file their international application under the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) with WIPO as receiving office. The full deployment of the PCT-SAFE ("Secure Applications Filed Electronically") system means that applicants from all of the PCT's 123 member states may file their international applications with WIPO at a reduced fee of up to 300 Swiss francs.

"This milestone in the history of the PCT heralds a new era in the operations of the PCT, which is the cornerstone of the international patent system", said Mr. Francis Gurry, WIPO Deputy Director General who oversees the PCT. "The availability of secure electronic filing using PCT-SAFE will ensure timely receipt and processing of international applications and will translate into significant efficiency gains both for users of the system and for WIPO", he added.

Electronic filing using PCT-SAFE software offers PCT applicants significant benefits, including:

  • Fee reductions of up to 300 Swiss francs;
  • Confidence that applications are correctly formatted thanks to validation software within PCT-SAFE which creates documents that meet PCT requirements;
  • Reduced printing, copying and mailing costs of applications;
  • Almost immediate notification that their application has been received and is being processed;
  • Documents are fully searchable both during the PCT procedure and once they enter the public domain;
  • Access to a PCT-SAFE Editor offers a user-friendly option for preparing the body of a PCT application in the required electronic format. Applicants may either convert an application body created using a word processor or prepare the application body from scratch within the Editor. Applicants who use this tool qualify for the maximum discount of 300 Swiss francs;
  • Secure transmission of international applications. The distribution of digital certificates to applicants using PCT-SAFE by the WIPO Customer Certification Authority ensures a high degree of data integrity and security.

Full deployment of PCT-SAFE within the WIPO receiving office means that PCT users can now file their international applications either on-line or using physical media such as CD-R. It follows a pilot phase which provided an opportunity for PCT users and WIPO to test and evaluate the PCT-SAFE system.

Until recently, international patent applications could only be filed on paper. As an interim solution, applicants have also had the option of using PCT-EASY software to prepare a validated request form of an application and to submit it (both on paper and on diskette) together with the substantive contents of the application on paper. The PCT-SAFE product is built on an enhanced version of the PCT-EASY software to facilitate the transition to PCT-SAFE. Although PCT-EASY users enjoy a 100 Swiss franc fee reduction, users who graduate to PCT-SAFE may benefit from reductions of up to 300 Swiss francs.

The PCT, for the third consecutive year in 2003 received over 110,000 international applications. The volume and increasing complexity of applications, in particular, from the biotechnology sector, has prompted WIPO to implement business solutions that enable the organization to meet the needs of PCT users by continuing to deliver cost-effective and quality services. The importance of this development and its associated benefits have already been recognized by major users of the PCT, such as Dutch electronics giant, Philips (Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.) which in August 2003, during pilot phase, filed the first fully electronic international application under the PCT under the PCT-SAFE pilot project.

At that time, Philips Chief Executive Officer of Intellectual Property Standards, Mr. Ruud Peters, said his firm plans to make extensive use of the PCT-SAFE software as this would translate into significant savings for his company, which has chosen the PCT as its preferred route for seeking international patent protection. "Filing patents on-line at WIPO means a huge step forward for our patent creation process," he said. "As we are constantly looking for ways to improve our business process and be cost-effective, this new service fits perfectly in our strategy," Mr. Peters noted (for more information, please refer to https://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/prdocs/2003/wipo_pr_2003_350.html).

New developments relating to PCT-SAFE are available through the WIPO PCT web site at https://www.wipo.int/pct-safe/en/index.htm, the PCT Newsletter and the WIPO Magazine. A WIPO publication entitled "What is PCT-SAFE?" (reference number 496) is also available.


The PCT was concluded in 1970 and entered into force in 1978 with the adherence of 18 countries. Today, the PCT offers advantages to patent applicants, national patent offices, and the public in the 123 states that have joined the system. Instead of filing separate national patent applications with the office of each country in which a patent is sought, the PCT allows an inventor/applicant to file one "international" application in one language and to seek protection simultaneously in all its member states. The effect of such an international application in each "designated state" is the same as if a national or regional patent application had been filed with the national patent office of that country or the relevant regional patent office.

The PCT offers applicants up to 18 months more time (or even more in some cases) than they would have under the traditional patent system to decide whether and for which countries they wish to pursue patent protection. In this way, they delay, by the same number of months, the expenses of translating the application, paying national fees and appointing local patent agents. In addition, as the result of the PCT's international search and international preliminary examination procedures, PCT applicants possess detailed, high-value information on which to base decisions of whether it is worthwhile to continue to seek patents for their inventions. They also benefit from the uniform formality requirements and centralized international publication provided by the PCT system.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations & Public Affairs Section at WIPO:

Tel: + 41 22 338 8161 or 338 95 47;
E-mail: publicinf@wipo.int.