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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is proposing double-digit fee hikes for international patent applications filed at the agency that fall under Patent Cooperation Treaty guidelines. The treaty, which involves more than 125 countries and is administered by the World Intellectual Property Association (WIPO), allows applicants to file an initial international patent application in one member country. On June 18, the PTO announced a proposal to increase search fees for prior art by 24% to $2,225 from $1,800 and application transmittal fees by 38% to $415 from $300. The agency is accepting written comments through August 18. In its Federal Register announcement, the PTO said it is proposing fee hikes “to recover the estimated average cost to the office” of processing the Patent Cooperation Treaty applications and preparing international search reports and written opinions for the applications. “The USPTO is required to set the [Patent Cooperation Treaty] transmittal fee and search fees at amounts that recover the estimated average cost to the Office,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Rankin Byrne. Filing an international application allows inventors to delay the cost of filing applications in individual countries, usually for 30 months, said David Dykeman, a Boston patent attorney and shareholder at Greenberg Traurig. The grace period gives the inventor time to decide which countries to file for permanent patent protection in, Dykeman said. “The [Patent Cooperation Treaty] application allows the applicant to file a single patent application that is recognized in most industrialized countries,” Dykeman said. “It acts as a placeholder to delay the potentially large expenses of foreign patent applications.” Higher fees may prompt some patent applicants to file international patent applications in other countries, but the price hike is unlikely to deter large numbers of applicants from using the PTO as the searching authority, Dykeman said. “If you go for a cheaper searching authority the quality of the search in the initial examination might not be as high,” Dykeman said. “There’s a definite trade off.”

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