When it is time to consider whether to file a PCT application, it is important to weigh in possible alternatives. For example, you can make a direct national filing on the same day as you file your U.S. application, or you can use the Paris Convention to claim foreign priority within one year of your domestic national filing via a direct national filing in each country.
Whether you file a foreign national application or a PCT (international) application depends on what is most important to you in your overall patent strategy. You get more time going the PCT route, but can save several thousand dollars by going the direct national filing route. The time provided in the PCT process can help an applicant collect information to better assess what countries it should pursue – time to commercialize, raise funding, assess product demand, delay translation costs and otherwise assess the response to early filings with search reports, written opinions and first office actions. The PCT process can also give you a “sneak peek” in that you are fairly likely to get the same examiner in the PCT and U.S. national case (assuming the USPTO is your designated Search Authority).
The direct national filing route can be more cost-effective if you know the countries of interest or that translations are not necessary, since PCT filing fees are eliminated from the overall process.
Most people find the PCT process the more advantageous route. With a PCT application, one single filing preserves patent rights in more than 150 countries without any additional translation costs or hiring foreign attorneys in many jurisdictions.