Patent Cooperation Treaty was signed by India in 1998. It allows an inventor to file an "international patent application," which has the effect of filing a separate patent application in each of the PCT member countries designated by the inventor. The accession boosted up big, medium and small industry and research institutes as they considered the PCT as a strategic business tool, essential in seeking patent protection abroad and in gaining competitive advantage. India, being one of the leaders in pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, is the chief users of the PCT system.
Once, an international application is filed, an international search is conducted as provided under Article 15 of the PCT. This international search is to discover relevant prior art on the basis of the claims made in the patent document. The patent office, which does the search, is usually termed as International Searching Authority, which is either a national office or an intergovernmental organization.
There are recognized International Searching Authorities, under the PCT, which are appointed by the PCT Assembly on satisfying the minimum requirements particularly as to manpower and documentation. Each receiving Office in accordance with the Article 16(3)(b) of the PCT, informs the International Bureau as to which International Searching Authority is competent for the searching of the international applications filed with it. When there are several competent International Searching Authorities specified by the receiving office, the applicant of the international application has the choice of having the search done by an International Search Authority of his choice. The results of the international search are set out in an international search report (ISR), which is made available to the applicant nine months after filing of the application.
Presently the Indian Patent Office is acting only as a receiving office whereas European Patent Office along with Austrian Patent Office and US Patent Office conduct majority of the international search on Indian international patent applications. India has expressed its plans to approach the WIPO for recognition of its patent office as the International Search Authority (ISA) and International Preliminary Examination Authority (IPEA). And as a preliminary step in this direction, the Rs. 1,300 crore modernization plan to computerize the patent offices is complete. The next step to interlink the patent offices to facilitate easy search of patent database is to be completed by March 2007. Once the linkage is complete, India plans to approach the WIPO for recognition of its Patent Office as IDA & IPEA, which would enable patent offices across the world to outsource patent search services to the Indian patent office.