Over 140 countries are PCT member countries. Therefore by filing a PCT application, you can reserve your option to pursue patents in over 140 countries. Not all countries are PCT member countries. The PCT application process has two steps, the international stage and the national stage. Residents or nationals of any PCT member country are eligible to file a PCT application.
A PCT patent application must be filed within 12 months of the first filing of a national patent application (such as a U.S. provisional or non-provisional patent application). An example application process flow is provided in figure 1 below.
The PCT application must be “nationalized” (entered into the national phase) into the particular foreign countries or jurisdictions that you would like to have patent protection in. Once the application is nationalized in a particular country, the application will be examined under the local laws of that country to determine whether a patent should be granted.
Pursuing patent protection by nationalizing a PCT application in every PCT country is generally not economically feasible. The need to hire local attorneys and prosecute the applications in each of 140 countries would be an very expensive endeavor.