I had the honor of speaking at the NAPP Annual Meeting recently.
My presentation focused on foreign filing best practices and ways to ensure that your US approach would not undermine your global patent opportunities. One attendee asked a question which I feel would be of interest to our blog subscribers.
A portion of my presentation discussed the strategy of introducing multiple dependent claims at the PCT national stage as a way of reducing excess claim fees in foreign countries. As you may know, in all countries except the US, multiple dependent claims are counted as only a single claim, and it’s possible to have nested multiple dependencies. Therefore, claims in multiple dependent form can sometimes be a useful tool in reducing claim fees while maintaining the scope of the claims.
The question that arose was why an applicant would choose to enter claims in multiple dependent form at the 30 or 31 month date rather than including them in the initial priority or PCT application.
In our experience, a decent proportion of US attorneys don’t even think about multiple dependent claims when drafting the initial application. Often, the client is not sure whether they want to enter the international arena anyway, so their attorneys tend to tailor the application with US filing and prosecution in mind.
Accordingly, I focused my presentation on the idea of amending claims to include multiple dependencies at national phase entry outside the US.
However, it’s definitely worth considering whether including multiple dependencies when initially filing the PCT application might reduce your client’s costs in the long run. If it’s likely the application will enter the national phase in several countries, it’s easier to start with multiple dependencies because you don’t need to then introduce them to each and every country (often at additional cost) during national phase entry or prosecution.
Even if you need to enter the national phase in the US, the cost of amending once to go back to single dependency form at US national phase entry is most likely outweighed by the savings in time and foreign attorneys’ fees in other countries that can use the multiple dependencies as filed with the PCT.
Of course, before you start taking this approach, you must be sure you understand how multiple dependencies work, including their advantages and disadvantages. In practical terms, sometimes it’s easier to start with a single dependency approach then add in multiple dependencies after the claims are drafted, but sometimes it works better the other way.
However, sensibly used in the right circumstances, multiple dependencies are a great way of increasing the scope-to-cost ratio.