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PCT Direct Procedure – Opportunity to Comment on International Application

The EPO operates a PCT service, PCT Direct, available to PCT applications which:

  • name the European Patent Office as International Searching Authority; and
  • claim priority from an earlier patent application which was searched by the EPO.

If a new PCT application fulfils both of these criteria, the Applicant may file a “PCT Direct letter” providing informal comments with the application. The Search Examiner is obliged to consider those comments when preparing the International Search Report and the Written Opinion on patentability.

The PCT Direct letter should discuss the patentability of the subject matter claimed in the PCT application. It may also explain any modifications made to the application in comparison to the priority application. The PCT Direct procedure therefore provides the Applicant with an opportunity to argue in favour of the patentability of the claimed subject matter at an early stage in the international phase and without the need to file a Demand for International Preliminary Examination.

To take advantage of the PCT Direct procedure the PCT Direct letter must be filed together with the PCT application and must be self contained, such that a third party could understand the comments without reference to the priority application(s) at issue. The content of the PCT Direct letter will become part of the public file after the PCT application publishes.

PCT direct was initially only available to PCT applications filed at the EPO as Receiving Office. However, from 1 July 2015 the service was extended to other Receiving Offices, meaning that all PCT Applicants who select the EPO as International Searching Authority may submit a PCT Direct letter, irrespective of the Receiving Office used.

Further information about PCT Direct and details of the formalities to be completed when filing a PCT Direct letter can be found in the Notice from the European Patent Office dated 8 March 2017. A link to that Notice is provided below.