Which is better, national or PCT?
This is impossible to answer in an absolute sense.
By way of summary, you have three options to get protection in multiple countries.
- Option 1: a first filing in one country, a PCT application (within 12 months), and a number of national phase applications from the PCT in other countries (within 30–31 months from the first filing);
- Option 2: a first filing in one country, then a number of Convention applications (within 12 months); or
- Option 3: filings in each country on the same day.
The only real benefit of a PCT is that you defer the decision of which countries to file in (and the costs associated with this) by 18 months. You also get an indication of its allowability by the search and examination performed on a PCT, but in most cases an applicant would ignore these anyway.
The disadvantage is that a PCT costs money.
A PCT application therefore functions essentially like an expensive extension of time. If paying for this is worthwhile to you, then file a PCT. If not, skip the PCT.
Skipping the PCT stage means you have to file all your foreign applications within 12 months of your first filing. This brings forward costs, but is cheaper overall.
Filing all your applications without claiming priority brings forward all the costs to day 1. It also requires a good amount of coordination between your lawyers in each country.
There is little advantage to this over Option 2.
Is it possible to apply for both at the same time?
Indeed, if you want to file in countries which are not part of the PCT (notably, Taiwan), but also use a PCT for other countries, your only option is to file a Convention application and a PCT application.
Which one is faster?
A PCT application will defer filing a national application for 18 months. Arguably this should mean it's slower than filing a Convention application directly.
But patent offices may handle national phase and Convention applications differently and by opaque means, so it's impossible to say for sure.