Each PCT application must undergo an international search carried out by one of the International Searching Authorities (ISA). Receiving Offices have agreements with at least one but sometimes several ISAs for carrying out international searches. Where a Receiving Office has an agreement with multiple ISAs, the PCT applicant must select one of them. Malaysia has nominated European Patent Office, Australia and Korea.
Once the ISA has performed the search, the applicant will receive an International Search Report (ISR) that contains a list of documents relevant for assessing the patentability of the invention. In addition, the ISA establishes a written opinion containing a detailed analysis of the patentability of the invention.
The distribution of Top 10 ISRs in 2009:
1. European Patent Office: 70,232. Language: English, French, German, Dutch
Fee: EUR 1,700
2. Japan: 28,613. Language: English, Japanese
Fee: JPY 97,000
3. Korea: 21,755. Language: English, Korean
Fee: KRW 900,000 (for English), KRW 450,000 (for Korean)
4. USA: 15,514. Language: English
Fee: USD 2,080
5. China: 8,146. Language: English, Chinese
Fee: CNY 2,100
6. Australia: 2,666. Language: English
Fee: AUD 1,600
7. Canada: 2,065. Language: English, French
Fee: CAD 1,600
8. Sweeden: 2,050. Language: Danish, English, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Swedish
Fee: SEK 18,000
9. Austria: 1,544. Language: English, French, German, Hungarian, Russian
Fee: EUR 200
10. Spain 1,358. Language: Spanish
Fee: EUR 1,700
European Patent Office (EPO) is the most popular ISA due to its wide recognition. Note that most of the ISA has revised their fee for 2010.
The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) is increasingly used notably by applicants from the US and Malaysia. KIPO has a patent prosecution highway agreement with USPTO. By 2009, over 60% of searches carried out by KIPO were done for applicants from the US. In 2009, only 30% of US applicants selected the USPTO as the ISA, with 30% of applicants selecting KIPO and the remaining 40% opting for the EPO.
In practice, since the technical preparation for publishing a PCT application takes approximately one month and should finish 15 days before the publication date, the establishment of the ISR within 16 months from the priority date still allows the IB to publish the ISR with the application document. ISRs received at IB after technical preparation of the PCT applications they relate to are published separately later.
Australia has a good timeliness by preparing 87% of ISR within 17 months, compared to Korea which only manages to prepare 27% of ISR within 17 months. The EPO manages to prepare 56% of ISR within 17 months.