Understanding the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) as an Amazon Seller

Rich Goldstein

Founder & Principal Patent Attorney

As an Amazon seller, you’re constantly up against people and entities trying to infringe on your intellectual property. This is especially true if your business is doing great. 

Through my years of helping Amazon sellers with patent protection consulting, an avenue I’ve constantly explored is the various measures for patent protection available to sellers.

My aim in this article is to review one of these options – the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), what it means, how to harness it, and most importantly, understanding the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) as an Amazon seller. 

Understanding the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) as an Amazon Seller

As an Amazon seller looking to maximize sales and stand out, you must pay close attention to and protect your intellectual property. One way to ensure this protection is by patenting your products. However, considering that Amazon is a global platform, how do you make sure your patent is recognized in different countries around the world? 

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That is where the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) comes in. This treaty was established to streamline the patent application process in multiple countries. It is used by major corporations, research institutions, and universities worldwide and guarantees a smoother and less risky patent application process in several countries. 

What Is the Patent Cooperation Treaty?

The PCT is an international treaty that facilitates filing patent applications for inventions in multiple countries. It was established in 1970, is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and currently has more than 155 Contracting States.

The primary purpose of the PCT is to simplify the patent application process for inventors and businesses seeking protection for their inventions in multiple countries. Instead of filing separate patent applications in each desired country or region, applicants can simply file a single international patent application under the PCT with the patent offices of their state. 

The PCT requires that the international application relate to a single invention or a group of inventions that are so linked as to form a single inventive concept. The ISAs and IPEAs are responsible for determining whether the application meets this requirement.

The PCT Filing Procedure

When filing a patent under the PCT, your application will go through various stages of review before it is granted. The stages of the PCT filing process include:

Filing

The PCT filing procedure begins with submitting an international patent application. The application can either be filed with the national or regional patent office of your country of birth or residence or directly with WIPO. This application must:

  • Comply with PCT formality requirements 
  • Be written in 1 language 
  • Be accompanied by a filing fee of 1,330 Swiss francs

The international application allows the applicant to claim a priority date based on an earlier national or regional application. This priority date can establish the invention’s novelty and secure priority over later-filed applications in other countries.

International Search

Upon filing the patent application, an International Searching Authority (ISA) conducts a comprehensive international search. The search identifies published patents and prior art relevant to the invention to determine if the invention is patentable. 

After the search, the ISA drafts a written opinion on the potential patentability of your invention, indicating whether it meets the criteria for a patent. 

A man in a suit writing on a piece of paper at a desk

International Publication

The application’s content is published by WIPO approximately 18 months from the earliest filing date, making the details of the invention available to the public. This publication does not grant any patent rights; it only serves as a basis for the examination process in each contracting state.

Supplementary International Search

At your request, a second ISA searches for documents that may not have been found during the first search. These documents may not have been found because they were written in different languages or different technical fields. 

International Preliminary Examination (Optional)

At your request, another patentability examination can be carried out by one of the ISAs to gain another opinion on the invention’s patentability. This is typically done if you have amended your application based on the written opinion from the international search. 

National Phase

After receiving the ISR and IPEA’s report, the applicant can enter the national phase in each desired contracting state within 30 or 31 months from the priority date, depending on the country. In the USA, the national phase entry is made by filing a separate application with the USPTO.

When filing an international patent application under the PCT, consulting with an intellectual property lawyer is advisable. They can assess the patentability of your invention and draft the application to meet the requirements of the PCT. They also help analyze and interpret the international search report and other written opinions by the ISA. 

Advantages of the PCT for Amazon Sellers

The PCT offers numerous advantages for Amazon sellers seeking to protect their inventions and products globally. These advantages include: 

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Simplified Application Process

One of Amazon sellers’ most significant benefits of the PCT is the simplified international filing process. Instead of filing separate patent applications in each desired country, sellers can file a single international patent application valid in more than 150 countries.

This saves time, costs, and efforts that would have otherwise gone into applying to different countries. It also reduces the risks of administrative errors much more likely to occur when separate applications are filed in different countries.

Ample Time to Make Decisions 

With a PCT application, you gain an additional 30 months (in most cases) to decide on the countries where you wish to pursue patent protection. Within this timeframe, you can conduct evaluations of the commercial viability of your inventions in various national markets, helping you decide which to go for.

You also have the opportunity to amend your application based on the written reports of the ISA. 

Cost Efficiency 

Thanks to consolidated initial filing and search processes, you can minimize the cost of applying for a patent. This is especially great for Amazon sellers with small to medium-sized businesses, who may not be able to afford multiple applications in different countries. 

Higher Application Quality 

The PCT allows Amazon sellers to benefit from the expertise of ISAs who conduct international searches and examinations for each application. This helps to identify any potential issues with the application, allowing for amendment, which ultimately improves the overall quality of the application. 

Global Recognition

Each PCT application gets published publicly, granting you global recognition and an internationally recognized priority date for your inventions. This priority date can be crucial in defending against infringement claims.

A diverse group of individuals gathered around a table engaged in a discussion or meeting

Disadvantages of PCT for Amazon Sellers

While the PCT offers numerous advantages for Amazon sellers seeking international patent protection, it’s important to consider its potential disadvantages. Understanding these drawbacks can help you make better decisions, so here they are: 

Expensive Patent Process

While the PCT is cost-efficient compared to filing separate patent applications in multiple countries, it still involves substantial costs and fees. Although most fees begin at the national phase, most national offices charge less for international applications than for direct national applications. 

The costs involved in the PCT include:  

  • International filing fee of 1,330 Swiss francs
  • Search fee of anything between 150 to 2,000 Swiss francs, depending on the chosen ISA 
  • Transmittal fee, which varies depending on the receiving office
  • Translation fees (if necessary)
  • National/ regional office filing fees 
  • Attorney fees 

For sellers with limited financial resources or tight budgets, these costs can pose a barrier to accessing international patent protection through the PCT. On the bright side, however, you get access to some fee reductions if you file your application digitally. 

Limited Patent Coverage

Only utility patents can be obtained under the PCT. Other types of patents, including design patents, cannot be gotten with the approach. For those, you would need a patent lawyer

Complex Process

The PCT process involves various stages, and managing the requirements and deadlines associated with each stage can be complex and time-consuming, particularly if you do not have any patent expertise.  

To relieve yourself of some of the burden, consider hiring an IP attorney to assist in the filing, managing, and monitoring of your application.

Two men working together at a table with a computer

Related Questions

Can I File a PCT Application Online?

Yes, you can file a PCT application online. The WIPO web service helps you to prepare your application by checking your entered data and highlighting any errors or inconsistencies. You can also use it to monitor your application through its various stages. Additionally, WIPO provides fee reductions for those who file electronically.

Can Anyone File a Patent Application Under the PCT?

Yes, anyone can file a patent application under PCT, as long as they are a national or resident of a PCT contracting state. Individuals, companies, universities, research institutions, and other entities who seek international patent protection can file under the PCT. 

How Long Does the PCT Application Process Take?

The duration of the PCT process typically spans about three years. The international publication is issued around 18 months after your initial filing date. Entering the national phase may take another 12 months, making 30 in total. However, you can request an early entry into the national phase if you do not want to wait 30 months. 

Conclusion 

The Amazon marketplace is highly competitive, so Amazon sellers must take steps to protect their intellectual property. If you want a patent in different countries, consider filing an international application under the PCT. This streamlines the application process, helping you save time, effort, and cost. 

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