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Home About Us Patent Patent Search Trademark Get Funding News/Blog Info/Links Site Map  
Through our DC office: we offer patent research at USPTO EAST- the same system/methods used by Patent Examiners.
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  Our Services : Patent : International PCT Patent Application
 
 
Our Services : Patent : International PCT Patent Application

PCT International Patent Application

Typically, we bill USD $2,000 (or, if you are a very small entity with < 20 employees- a 50% reduced,  flat-fee of USD $1,000 ) to Prepare, File, and Manage the PCT patent filing process. As little as a 24hr turn time is possible  (yet we prefer 1-2 weeks), and pre-approval is required for such rush work.


Small Entity PCT application- $1030


Large Entity PCT application- $2060

 

PCT international patent application

The PCT patent Business Decision
Some Business Factors to Consider
The PCT International Patent Application
Foreign National Filings based on the PCT patent
What we need to file your PCT Request


The Business Decision

Filing your patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) is the first step toward securing protection of your idea. Upon the granting of a patent by the USPTO you have exclusive rights to your invention in the USA. However, that only protects you in the USA, and not internationally. Generally, a patent is required in each country you seek patent protection in. The problem for all but the deepest pocket inventors/companies is that foreign filing of your patent application can be a very expensive and complex process, as each foreign country has its own patent laws, rules, and regulations, as well as significant fees for filing patents. Thus, careful consideration is required. However, ignoring the world market in a global economy can be a significant lost opportunity for your invention and could significantly diminish the value of your invention and its broader intellectual property value. You have 1 year after any patent filing to file internationally. If you pass the the 1 year international patent application filing deadline you will forever lose all international patent rights on your invention. Hence, making the right decision, after considering various business factors, that hedges your risk and keeps open your opportunity for rewards may be the optimal approach.

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Some Business Factors to Consider

  • Do you plan to license your invention to a multinational firm? If so, preserving your international filing rights with a PCT application could be critical to their interest in investing in, making, or using your product or service. Without patent protection they may not be able to secure adequate profits to make your invention worthwhile for them to engage.
  • Does your company plan to sell internationally product or services using your invention? If so, without foreign patent protection you may not be able to be competitive.
  • What markets do you expect would present a significant customer base for your produce/service now and in the future.
  • Do you currently receive any foreign business, inquiries, or interest?

Many other practical questions similar to the above should be considered. If your answer is yes to any one such factor, then it is prudent to secure the right to file foreign patents all around the world, even if you later choose not to do so. This is what the PCT patent application enables you to do: defer the decision at a relatively low cost, especially when compared to the extremely high cost of filing in each foreign country. The PCT gives you time to decide which foreign markets turn out to be the most valuable and worthwhile to apply for patent protection in.

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The PCT International Patent Application

For US inventors/companies, because of the great expense of foreign patent filings, the usual procedure regarding international protection is to "buy time" by first filing a US patent application, then within 1 year of filing the US (utility or provisional) patent application or before any public disclosure, file a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) international patent application request. Then within 20 months decide which countries you wish to separately file in. Typically, we would file your US and PCT applications, and foreign associates would file patent applications in their respective countries up to 30 months from the earliest filing date. The PCT application based on your US application would be a low flat-fee for us to prepare and file your PCT request; which locks in your international filing date and gets the PCT process started.

Once you have filed your USA patent application, you can "reserve" your rights to file in foreign countries by filing a PCT Application. In this approach, you pick the countries in which you believe the invention requires patent protection. That is, as long as you take the proper steps to preserve your international filing rights (e.g., no disclosure to non-inventors prior to US filing, file within 1 year of US filing, etc.), you have a good amount of time to analyze you business case for each country to determine which are worthwhile to pursue.

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Foreign National Filings

If you can afford it and know which foreign countries are worth the investment, then you may file individually in each foreign country and skip filing the PCT; however, this non-PCT approach could easily cost $50K and above. So you should choose each country based on a very solid business case considering the opportunity verses cost in each country. Prosecuting the PCT application costs a few thousand with our firm (spread over a couple of years), but this is very small compared to the very large cost of filing a patent in each country you wish to file nationally with. Filing and prosecuting foreign patents usually costs over $10K per country, where some, like Japan, are more than $50K each.

Whether you seek to file a patent immediately in one country, or want to reserve countries in a PCT filing, Bay Area IP can assist you. Generally, we can file your PCT application request on as little as a one week notice if you have a PCT filing deadline. However, we do prefer a 2-4 week lead time.

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What we need to file your PCT Application Request

To file a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) International Patent Application based on a US patent application we require:

  1. An English patent application translation
  2. Your contact information
  3. Formal drawings (additional fees apply for us to draft formal drawings; and, expect delays)
  4. Filing dates, numbers, and locations
  5. The inventor's full name, address, telephone, FAX, and any email addresses
  6. Inventor citizenship
  7. All assignment information
  8. Payment of required fees

Our lead-time in filing PCT applications is generally short if the PCT is based on prior patents or applications.  Under normal conditions, we can prepare and file your PCT application within a week or two, and as fast as a day or two on a rush status to meet filing deadlines.

Feel free to contact us for more information.  We will contact you with instructions on how to submit the above enumerated information.

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Protecting Technology and Inventions Internationally



PCT Patent Overview

Obtaining a patent in one country, does not give the owner of the patent worldwide protection for the invention. Instead, a patent application must be filed in or for each country where protection is desired. Moreover, such applications must be filed by a deadline set by each particular country. Patent applications often must have an effective filing date which predates any public disclosure of the invention. This requirement can place quite a burden on the filer in meeting time limits and having enough funds available for filing foreign patent applications. Fortunately, there are treaties which many of the countries around the world have ratified which help to ameliorate this situation. Two of the commonly used treaties are the Paris Convention and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).


The Paris Convention

The Paris Convention is a treaty which first came into force more than 100 years ago and which most industrialized countries have joined (the most notable exception is possibly Taiwan). In very broad terms, this treaty offers to parties filing patent applications in a member country a grace (or priority) period within which patent applications can be filed in other member countries. In the case of a design patent (and a trademark, for that matter), the grace period is six months. In the case of a utility patent (also known as a patent of invention), the grace period is one year. Thus, this treaty affords an individual or a corporation a grace period within which to file foreign patent applications in member countries, the grace period being measured from the date of filing the first patent application directed to the invention (or design) in a member country. Since most major countries are members of the Paris Convention, the individual or corporation can usually file a patent application in its home country and then later (within the grace period) file corresponding patent applications in other member countries.


Claim to Priority

When a foreign application is filed under the Paris Convention in a country which has ratified this treaty and within the applicable grace period, it is filed with a claim to "priority". That is, the application in the foreign country will be treated as if it had been filed on the same date as the first application filed in another Paris Convention member country. Another way of expressing this concept is to say that the foreign patent application has an effective filing date which is the same as the actual filing date of the first application. The benefit of this claim to priority is readily apparent to Intellectual Property lawyers. If you are not an Intellectual Property lawyer, consider an invention which the owner has maintained in secrecy prior to filing a patent application in their home country (which is assumed to be a member of the Paris Convention). After the patent application has been filed, the owner may make the invention public (for example, by selling a product embodying the invention or by other promotional activities). The owner can still obtain patents for the same invention in other countries which are members of the Paris Convention, provided the other patent applications are filed within the grace period noted above and a claim for convention priority is made.


Non Paris Convention Countries

While many countries have ratified the Paris Convention, there are a number of countries which have not done so. One such country is Taiwan. Since Taiwan follows the general regarding the required novelty of inventions, Taiwanese patent applications must be filed (as a general rule) before the invention is made public in any way anywhere in the world. However, just because a country is not a member of the Paris Convention, that does not necessarily mean that there is not some other way of making a priority claim. In the case of Taiwan, the government of Taiwan has passed legislation allowing for a priority claim based on a patent application filed in a foreign country which provides the same privilege based on reciprocity. The United States and Taiwan have negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding, which came into effect on April 10, 1996, concerning such priority claims. Taiwan and the United States will honor priority claims based on patent applications (for a one year priority period) and design applications (for a six month priority period) filed on or after that date in the other jurisdiction, but the priority right will apparently be more narrow than it is in the case of a priority claimed under the Paris Convention. For example, a non-U.S. national who is the applicant of an U.S. patent application may well not be able to claim priority to their U.S. patent application in a subsequent application filed in Taiwan. There are a number of other possible limitations which are too detailed to treat in the context of this general article. Moreover, there are many unanswered questions which may not be clarified for some time with respect to not only how broad the priority coverage will be, but also respect to the possibility of claiming priority to an U.S. Provisional Patent Application or a PCT patent Application designating the United States.

As the reader can readily appreciate, the Paris Convention offers a tremendous advantage to patent applicants. However, despite this advantage, many inventors are still not prepared, even after a one year grace period, to undertake the expense of foreign filings. Fortunately, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, known as the PCT patent, offers the inventor yet another avenue to defer such expenses.


The Patent Cooperation Treaty

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT patent) patent has been subscribed to by a large number of countries. Many members of the Paris Convention are also members of the PCT patent, but there are important exceptions. The number of countries which are members of the PCT patent seems to increase year by year. A current list is usually maintained by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). As you can see, nearly all of the major countries of the world are PCT patent members.

Under the PCT one can file an "International Patent Application" which effectively buys a period of time within which to proceed with a full program of national or regional (such as the EPO) patent applications. The PCT patent offers an initial phase known as Chapter I and a second phase known as Chapter II. The countries which have ratified the PCT have the option of ratifying only Chapter I of the treaty or of ratifying both Chapters I and II of the treaty. Initially, many countries, including the United States, only ratified Chapter I of the PCT patent and at that time Chapter I had a fixed length of 20 months while Chapter II had a fixed length of an additional 10 months.

Today, all countries which have ratified the PCT permit an applicant to take advantage of both Chapter I and Chapter II. Thus, the full period of time within which to proceed with a program of national or regional (such as the EPO) patent applications is 30 months from the filing date of the earliest patent application to which priority is claimed or 30 months from the filing date of the International Patent Application if no priority is claimed. The International Patent Application may be filed within the 12 month grace (priority) period provided by the Paris Convention (discussed above) by making a claim for convention priority.

The Chapter I stage involves the filing of the application and the publication of an International Search Report while Chapter II involves "International Preliminary Examination" and the eventual issuance of an International Preliminary Examination Report (IPER) or International Preliminary Report on Patentability (IPRP). Originally, in order to be entitled to the full 30 month time period provided by the PCT under Chapter II, an applicant had to file a "Demand for International Preliminary Examination" prior to entering Chapter II procedures.

Due to recent changes to PCT patent practice, the filing of the Demand for International Preliminary Examination has become optional for many, but not all, PCT member countries and the International Search Report is now combined with a Written Opinion regarding the patentability of the invention. It seems that most applicants have been more interested in obtaining the benefits of the 30 month time period than in amending an application under Chapter II and that the patent offices have had problems in staffing their offices with suitably trained Examiners. So, the PCT patent has been moving to meet the applicants' desire and to reduce the examination backlogs at the patent offices by making the filing of a Demand for International Preliminary Examination optional while still giving applicants the desired 30 month time period to file National and Regional Stage Applications. Additionally, the issuance of a Written Opinion, which heretofore only occurred during Chapter II, will now issue with the International Search Report during Chapter I.

However, some countries encoded the original PCT patent Chapter I and Chapter II regime into their national laws and thus, until such countries amend their national laws to harmonize them with the latest PCT patent practice, it is still necessary to file a Demand for International Preliminary Examination if the applicant wishes to take advantage of the 30 month deadline date for entering the National Stage in such countries. A number of countries originally fell into this category and many of them have already amended their domestic patents laws to adopt the new PCT patent regime. However, a few countries have yet to harmonize their domestic patent legislation with the new regime. At present, those countries include Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania and a few other countries. A list is maintained by WIPO.

In addition to making the filing of a Demand for International Preliminary Examination largely optional (for most countries) and pushing the issuance of a written opinion into Chapter I, the recent changes to PCT patent practice have also blurred the deadline date for entering Chapter II. But, for those countries which encoded the original PCT patent Chapter I and Chapter II regimes into their national laws, the deadline date for filing of a Demand for International Preliminary Examination is still 19 months from the filing date of the earliest patent application to which priority is claimed or 19 months of the filing date of the International Application if no priority is claimed. For those countries that either did not encode the original PCT patent Chapter I and Chapter II regimes into their national laws or have amended their national laws to agree with current PCT patent practice, the deadline for filing the now optional Demand for International Preliminary Examination is either (i) 3 months from the publication of the International Search Report or (ii) 22 months from the earliest priority date (or the filing date of the International Application if no priority is claimed), which ever is later.

Several countries which have ratified the PCT patent permit their designations to be in terms only of a regional patent application and not a national patent application. When you combine this fact with the fact that some countries still follow the original PCT patent Chapter I and II regime, trying to figure out that which needs to be done when and where can be a bit confusing.

Filing under the PCT is typically done at one's home country patent office. In PCT patent parlance, the filing of the application is done at the "Receiving Office" and the filed application is called an "International Patent Application". Under PCT patent Rules, the Receiving Office which an applicant may use depends upon the party's nationality or country of residence. Fees must be paid when the application is filed and those fees are based on a number of factors, including the length of the application and, originally, the number of countries which were designated.

The Patent Cooperation Treaty is effective for patents of invention only. Unlike the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty has no impact on design patents (or trademarks, for that matter). Thus, you cannot use the PCT patent to prolong the relatively short six month grace period for filing foreign design applications provided by the Paris Convention.


The International Patent Application

The filing of an International Patent Application is treated as the effective filing of separate patent applications in each PCT member country designated in the International Patent Application. The International Patent Application can often be filed in your native tongue. Thus, for United States applicants the International Application is filed in the English language while for Japanese applicants the International Patent Application is filed in the Japanese language.

Originally, designation fees had to be paid and the applicant had to designate countries specifically in the International Application. Today, the need to specifically designate countries has largely, but not completely, disappeared. The need to pay specific designation fees has now gone. However, there are instances when not designating a particular country can be important.

It is to be noted that the International Application does not mature into some sort of international patent. Quite to the contrary, it acts primarily as a delaying vehicle. This is because eventually National (or Regional, where appropriate) Stage Applications must be filed before patent offices of the member PCT countries designated in the International Application in order to secure patents. These patent offices are referred to as "Designated Offices" in PCT patent parlance. Failure to take such action causes the International Patent Application to lapse in the country for which no action was taken. However, an International Application may pend for up to 30 months as mentioned above. Thus, instead of having only a twelve month time period within which an inventor must file foreign applications in order to claim priority, with the PCT patent, the inventor can gain an additional eighteen months before having to incur the relatively large expenses of completing the applications at each of the Designated Offices (entering the "National or Regional Stage" in PCT patent parlance) which entails translating the International Application into the official languages used at the Designated Offices, paying the requisite official fees, etc. Those additional months can be crucial to the exploitation of an invention. They may give the inventor additional time to raise the funds required to file patent applications in a large number of countries, or provide additional time within which to gage the economic importance of the invention, or to find licensees or even partners in the enterprise.

An International Patent Application follows the general form of patent applications in that it must include a technical description of the invention, drawings (when appropriate) depicting the invention and claims setting out the metes and bounds of the subject matter for which patent protection is being sought, in addition to certain formal documents which must also be submitted when the International Application is filed.


Qualified PCT patent Applicants

A party may file an International Patent Application only if the party is a citizen, resident or domiciliary of a PCT member country and also provided that the applicant files preferably at the Receiving Office designated for their country or at the International Bureau (IB) of WIPO in Geneva. The applicant may be a corporate entity, although if the United States is a designated country, then the applicant for the purposes of the United States must be the inventor or inventors.

Typically, the Receiving Office for a given PCT member country is the local national patent office although all qualified applicants also have the option of filing an International Patent Application with the IB if they prefer. A qualified party, that is, a party that is a domiciliary, resident or citizen of a member PCT country, may file their International Patent Application initially at their Receiving Office or at the IB (that is, without first having filed a regular domestic patent application at the patent office in their home country) or they may wait to file at their Receiving Office or at the IB near the end of the one year grace period provided by the Paris Convention if they started out by filing a regular national patent application. Countries which join the PCT must also be members of the Paris Convention, and thus the International Patent Application can be filed within the one year grace period provided by the Paris Convention. Often the applicant elects initially to file a patent application at their home patent office as a regular domestic patent application rather than as an International Patent Application. Then the Applicant files an International Patent Application at their Receiving Office close to expiration of the one year grace period provided by the Paris Convention. A majority of the International Patent Applications filed follow this latter route and are filed at the applicant's Receiving Office rather than at WIPO.

It should be perhaps noted, in passing, that the choice of the Receiving Office to be used can be compounded by laws governing the export of technology for the inventor's home country and/or where the invention was made.


Chapter I

Chapter I enables one to file an application at the PCT patent Receiving Office and have it pend for at least twenty months from either (i) the filing date of the International Application (if no priority date is claimed under the Paris Convention) or (ii) the earliest claimed priority date. A priority date would normally be claimed to the home country filing date if the International Application is filed at the Receiving Office within one year of the home country filing date. As such, PCT patent Chapter I gives the applicant at least an additional eight month time period beyond the twelve month grace period provided by the Paris Convention before the substantial expenses associated with entering the National (or Regional) Stage must be incurred. As indicated above, for many PCT patent member states, the International Application now pends for thirty months from either (i) the filing date of the International Application (if no priority date is claimed under the Paris Convention) or (ii) the earliest claimed priority date.

During Chapter I a search of the prior art is accomplished. Applicants often have the choice of using a different patent office for doing the search than the patent office which serves as the Receiving Office for the applicant. The prior art search is reported in an International Search Report which is discussed more fully below. Under the new PCT patent regime, a Written Opinion regarding the patentability of the claims will accompany the International Search Report. If no Chapter II Demand is filed, the International Search Report and the accompanying Written Opinion will form the International Preliminary Report on Patentability (IPRP) that will be published, in due course, by WIPO.


Chapter II

Chapter II provides a mechanism for an application to undergo an interactive International Preliminary Examination of the patentability of the invention. Chapter II also increases the pendency of the International Application from twenty to thirty months from the priority date, if claimed, or from the international filing date, if no priority was claimed, for those countries which continue to adhere the original PCT patent regime. As indicated above, the filing of a Demand for International Preliminary Examination is no longer necessary for most countries in order to take advantage of the 30 month time period. To take advantage of interactive examination available under Chapter II one must file a Chapter II Demand and pay an additional fee, called a Chapter II Demand Fee, at the PCT Office which is to attend to the interactive examination. The International Preliminary Examination process is discussed in greater detail below.


Search and Publication of the Invention under Chapter I

While the Paris Convention serves primarily to enable one to obtain a grace period for filing foreign patent applications, the PCT offers more. Once a party has filed an Intentional Patent Application at their Receiving Office, a search of the prior art is conducted for the invention to apprise the owner of what prior art appears to be relevant to the invention. This search is made under Chapter I and a report called the International Search Report normally is made available to the applicant (and to the public) shortly before the deadline date for entering Chapter II. Under the new PCT patent regime, a Written Report regarding the patentability of the invention is made available to the applicant. If it appears to the applicant that the prior art disclosed in the search and discussed in the Written Opinion renders the invention unpatentable (or less important than first thought), the owner of the application may then choose to allow the International Application to lapse as opposed to going forward with the expense of entering the National Stage. Additionally, under Chapter I of the PCT patent, a copy of the patent application (together with the aforementioned International Search Report, but not the Written Opinion) is published 18 months from the priority date (if claimed) or the international filing date (if no priority is claimed). This publication puts the public on notice that the applicant is seeking to protect the invention and also effectively precludes another party from obtaining a patent on that invention in many countries since the PCT patent publication will create a prior art bar to subsequent applicants. Of course, in countries, such as the United States, which have a grace period, that bar (due to publication of the PCT patent application) will occur one year later for inventors who had previously made the same invention.

A negative aspect of the publication is that if the owner of the International Application has not previously filed in foreign countries which are not designated in the PCT patent application, then the applicant will be precluded from thereafter seeking patent protection of the published invention in those countries (unless the country in question has a national grace period or the PCT patent publication is not prior art in the country for some other reason). A publication of the invention prior to filing a patent application for the invention will preclude patent protection in most countries. However, in many, but not all PCT countries, this publication of the invention can enable the owner of the International Application to seek damages in subsequent patent infringement litigation back to the date of publication of the International Application. This ability to seek backdated damages arises if a patent is ultimately granted for the invention in countries which allow such backdating of damages. It may also involve translation of the claims of the International Application or otherwise putting an unauthorized user on notice in order for the backdating to occur.


Examiner's Review of the Invention under Chapter II

In Chapter II the proceedings are called "International Preliminary Examination". Under the old regime, an Examiner would review the prior art documents reported in the International Search Report and issue an International Preliminary Examination Report (IPER) regarding the patentability of the invention. The IPER was based not only on the prior art references mentioned in the search report, but also considered whether the claims in the International Patent Application meet other criteria for patentability, including such matters as the clarity of the claims, and prior art which may be known to the Examiner but which did not appear in the International Search Report.

Under the new regime, the Examiner instead issues an International Preliminary Report on Patentability (IPRP) which is expected to have the same content as the older IPER.

Prior to issuance of the IPRP or IPER, a Written Opinion should issue. Under the old regime, the Written Opinion would issue after the Demand had been filed if any claim was not patentable. Under the new regime, a Written Opinion is to be prepared under Chapter I in connection with the International Search Report. However, if the office performing the search and the office performing International Preliminary Examination are different offices, then a separate Written Opinion may still be issued by the office doing the examination after a Demand is filed, if any claim is not patentable.

The owner of the patent application has the opportunity to respond to a Written Opinion and argue for the patentability of the claims as well as make amendments to the claims (assuming that the Examiner takes a negative view of at least some of the claims in the application). Under the new practice, this response must be filed with the Chapter II Demand if the Applicant desires that the claims be amended and/or desires that its views regarding the patentability of the claims be considered. Any arguments and any amendments made to the claims will be reviewed by the Examiner and may cause the Examiner to change his mind regarding the patentability of the claimed invention. Irrespective of whether the Examiner's initial opinion changes with the subsequent submissions, the Examiner will issue an IPRP setting forth the Examiner's position regarding the patentability of the claimed invention. Unfortunately, in the past, IPERs have sometimes issued long after the deadline date for entering the National Stage has passed and any delay in issuing the IPER/IPRP does not excuse the applicant from filing the National (or Regional) Stage applications in a timely fashion.

Ultimately the IPER/IPRP is passed to the countries designated in the International Application in order to assist the examiners at the various national patent offices in reviewing the eventual National Stage applications. This should expedite the review of the applications in those countries and give the applicant a higher degree of confidence as to what will be the outcome of the national examination processes. Thus, there is a possible cost savings for the applicant in that an initial examination of the application under a single authority occurs which examination can be used in the Designated Countries hopefully to convince the examiners in those countries to allow the applications to mature into patents with no or little additional amendment of the applications. In some instances, if appropriate arguments and amendments are made during Chapter II, this can result in the applications being granted as patents with a minimum of additional interplay with the examiners before the Designated Offices. Moreover, in countries where no real examination is undertaken, the PCT patent International Preliminary Examination may offer the application the sole opportunity to prosecute the application before it matures into a patent. Thus, the PCT patent procedures may not only offer a welcome delay in deciding where (and whether) to file patent applications, but can ultimately save one money in securing foreign patents. Unfortunately, few applicants are interested in this latter feature of the PCT patent.

 

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Legal Notice: None of the information provided in this website should be construed as or used as legal advice. The information provided here is for educational purposes only, in order to help inventors learn background information before consulting a practitioner. Since the best course of action in any specific matter will depend on the specific facts of the matter, NOTHING on this site can provide a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel. Consult with a professional for specific advice regarding your particular situation.

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