In theory, PCT application fees should make the PCT route to foreign patent filing more expensive (overall) than direct Paris Convention filings. However, reality isn’t always that simple.
First, the additional 18 months the PCT buys allow better assessment of an invention’s likely commercial value.
Second, the International Search Report (ISR) issued during this period often provides a reasonable indication of prior art that will be faced during national phase examination.
Via these advantages, the PCT enables applicants to dynamically adjust the average cost per filing in a way that direct Paris Convention filings simply don’t allow. For example, PCT applications for inventions of low commercial value can be allowed to lapse, or national phase can be entered in fewer countries. Higher value applications can be filed more broadly.
Finally, if you can keep national phase entry costs low enough (get an estimate via our foreign filing platform), the PCT route can be cheaper overall even without taking these factors into account.
Maybe applicants should consider whether they can afford not to use the PCT!