Which PCT International Search Authority (ISA) should I use?

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The International Search Report (“ISR”) is a fundamental part of the PCT procedure. Once a PCT application is filed, an International Search Authority (ISA) performs a search of the prior art, and provides the results to the applicant in the form of an ISR. The applicant can use the ISR to gain an insight into what prior art they might encounter during examination after national phase entry.

An ISA is, in effect, a patent office with its PCT hat on. Most ISA searchers and examiners are simply examiners at their local patent office, with special training in the special requirements of the PCT (note: the USPTO outsources some of its PCT International Searches to private search companies).

There are presently 15 ISAs. Every Receiving Office allows applicants access to at least one ISA. Some countries allow PCT applicants to choose from more than one ISA.

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What to Expect in your International Search Report and Written Opinion

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The International Search Report and Written Opinion of the International Searching Authority (ISR) is a document provided by the International Searching Authority (ISA) in connection with a PCT patent application. Typically, the ISR is issued a few months after the International Filing Date, but there can be quite a significant difference depending on what ISA you select. The ISR gives applicants an idea of what prior art is out there and what issues and rejections may arise once the application has entered the national/regional stage. Applicants can then formulate their foreign filing strategies accordingly and place the application in the condition for allowance.

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The Benefits of the Supplemental Search Report

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After filing your PCT application, an International Searching Authority (ISA) will perform a search of relevant patent documents and references. Additionally, the ISA will issue a preliminary and non-binding review of the claims, analyzing them to see if they satisfy novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability standards. The International Search Report and Written Opinion are sent out approximately 4 months after the PCT filing date (16 months after

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the priority date).

If desired, the applicant can request further international searches from one or more ISAs which have indicated their availability to perform supplemental searches. There are two fees for requesting the supplemental search – a search fee set by the ISA performing the additional search and a CHF 200 search handling fee to the International Bureau. Usually, this request is submitted after the applicant has received the International Search Report, but no later than 19 months after the priority date. The Supplemental International Search Report usually issues 28 months after the priority date, right at the time when the applicant is deciding where the application will enter the national stage.

The benefit of requesting a supplemental international search is pretty obvious. Having additional sets of eyes searching the prior art base means reducing the chances of any unanticipated prior art popping up during examination. Since foreign filings can be quite expensive, having a complete picture of the prior art and one’s likelihood to receive a patent can help an applicant formulate their strategy before entering the national stage.

 

Which PCT International Search Authority (ISA) should I use?

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Below is a reexamination of a popular article from 2013, Which PCT International Search Authority (ISA) should I use? Originally published by Jeff Shieh, we update the statistics for 2016 and take a look back at the processes involved in selecting a PCT International Search Authority:

The International Search Report (“ISR”) is a fundamental part of the PCT procedure. Once a PCT application is filed, an International Search Authority (ISA) performs a search of the prior art, and provides the results to the applicant in the form of an ISR. The applicant can use the ISR to gain an insight into what prior art they might encounter during examination after national phase entry.

An ISA is, in effect, a patent office with its PCT hat on. Most ISA searchers and examiners are simply examiners at their local patent office, with special training in the special requirements of the PCT (note: the USPTO outsources some of its PCT International Searches to private search companies).

There are presently 20 ISAs, up from 15 in 2013. Every Receiving Office allows applicants access to at least one ISA. Some countries allow PCT applicants to choose from more than one ISA.

The choice for most applicants worldwide is their local patent office, if it’s available as an ISA. Even when there’s a choice of ISAs, there seems to be a default choice to stick with the local patent office. Many applicants will ultimately want to enter the national phase in their local country, so having the search performed by someone with experience in that country (i.e., a local examiner) may be useful.

However, if you have the option of choosing from more than one ISA, it’s worth taking some time to think about the advantages and disadvantages of the different options.

The US, in particular, offers a wide range of ISAs to applicants for which it acts as receiving office. The available ISAs for US-filed PCT applications are:

  •  IP Australia (Australian Patent Office)
  • European Patent Office (EPO)
  • Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO)
  • Rospatent (Russian Patent Office)
  • United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

So which factors might you want to consider when choosing which ISA will search your PCT application?

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The Benefits of the Supplemental Search Report

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After filing your PCT application, an International Searching Authority (ISA) will perform a search of relevant patent documents and references. Additionally, the ISA will issue a preliminary and non-binding review of the claims, analyzing them to see if they satisfy novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability standards. The International Search Report and Written Opinion are sent out approximately 4 months after the PCT filing date (16 months after the priority date). 

If desired, the applicant can request further international searches from one or more ISAs which have indicated their availability to perform supplemental searches. There are two fees for requesting the supplemental search – a search fee set by the ISA performing the additional search and a CHF 200 search handling fee to the International Bureau. Usually, this request is submitted after the applicant has received the International Search Report, but no later than 19 months after the priority date. The Supplemental International Search Report usually issues 28 months after the priority date, right at the time when the applicant is deciding where the application will enter the national stage.

The benefit of requesting a supplemental international search is pretty obvious. Having additional sets of eyes searching the prior art base means reducing the chances of any unanticipated prior art popping up during examination. Since foreign filings can be quite expensive, having a complete picture of the prior art and one’s likelihood to receive a patent can help an applicant formulate their strategy before entering the national stage. 

Friday Foreign Filing Roundup

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Hi everyone! Take a look at the foreign filing/patenting news for the week of May 21st:

  • Attention all New Hampshirites! The USPTO has opened a new Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) in Concord offering free resources to better serve the IP needs of the state.
  • A great article from CFO.com discusses the importance of properly evaluating a company’s IP; more companies are now being valued in terms of their intangible assets, namely, their patent portfolio. 
  •  Singapore is restructuring its patent system in order to create an increased presence in Asia’s growing intellectual property space.
  • With only a few weeks left until the country becomes a provider of ISR’s and IPER’s, the Israeli Patent Office is prepping new examiners to work under the official standards of the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

Are you looking to pursue international patent protection via the PCT? We handle the national phase entry step and work to significantly reduce the costs associated with this stage. Take a look at this guide for cost-saving foreign filing tips!