How do I protect my idea?

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Intellectual property 

The term Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, and symbols, names and images used in commerce. There are several types of IP Rights (IPR), such as patents, designs, copyright and trademarks. IPR are protected in law and enables people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.

What is a patent?

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.  In principle, the patent owner has the exclusive right to prevent others from commercially exploiting the patented invention.

Patents are territorial rights. In general, the exclusive rights are only applicable in the country or region in which a patent has been filed and granted, in accordance with the law of that country or region.

The protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years from the filing date of the application.  For patents covering pharmaceutical products, some countries offer patent term extension, extending the patent term by up to five years.

How can I get a patent?

Inventions are only patentable if they are novel, inventive and have industrial applicability.

• If the invention has been made available to the public, for example by publication in a journal, online or in an application for research funding that is available to the public, the invention is no longer novel. Therefore, it is essential that a patent application is filed before any form of publication of the invention takes place.

• Inventive step means that the invention has to be non-obvious to a person skilled in the art.

• The requirement of industrial applicability means that the invention must be useful industrially – it cannot merely be an idea.

Patent protection is not acquired automatically. You have to file a patent application describing the invention in technical terms and in a form that meets certain requirements. It is strongly recommended to carry out a patentability assessment before filing and to use a professional patent attorney for the drafting and filing of the patent application. 

The first step is usually to file your patent application with a national patent office. Under the 1883 Paris Convention, someone who files a patent application (priority application) in one country can then claim the "priority" of the filing date of that patent application for later patent applications in other countries, provided that they relate to the same invention and are filed within twelve months of the first one. An international patent application (PCT, Patent Cooperation Treaty) may be filed, within said twelve month period. The PCT application covers about 152 countries. The due date for national or regional phase entry is usually 30 months from the priority date, i.e., by this time the applicant has to make a decision in which specific countries patent protection is desired and enter the PCT application into National/Regional phase in each of those countries/regions. The patent application is published 18 months from the priority date of the first filed patent application.

What are the costs for obtaining a patent?

Professional assistance to draft a patent application costs from about 50,000 SEK. This is in addition to the official fees for filing the application (about 3,000-15,000 SEK). The filing of a PCT application costs from 31000 SEK in fees, in addition to attorney costs (from at least 20,000SEK, depending on the extent of modification needed of the first patent application). At the time of national phase entry of the PCT application (30 months from the priority application), significant costs occur (official fees, translation costs, attorney costs). During the prosecution, i.e. the examination in each country, there is further attorney cost as well as official fees. After patent grant, annuities need to be paid to the patent office in each country, to maintain the patent in force. The total cost for a patent family from filing to grant in about 10 countries may easily exceed 1 MSEK. 

Who owns an invention?

The right to an invention originates from the inventors and is determined by law and agreements. If the invention has been conceived within the scope of employment, the inventor usually has to assign the invention to the employer. However, for scientists and teaching staff employed at Swedish universities, the ”professor’s privilege” applies, and the invention is owned by the inventor personally, not by the university (unless otherwise agreed).

Inventorship is a legal matter and is different from authorship. Only the individual (or individuals) who conceived the claimed invention and had a clear appreciation of how to reduce it to practice, are inventors. Colleagues who merely assisted in experimental work or in the manufacture of prototypes are generally not inventors.

Ownership is distinct from inventorship and can be agreed upon. For example, an inventor can agree to assign the rights to the invention to a company or agree to share ownership or licensing income with other individuals than the inventors. 

Copyright

Copyright is the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture, and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings.

Translations and other alterations of the original work can also be protected by copyright, if it displays some originality of its own. Such derivative work becomes a second, separate work independent in form from the first.

There are two types of rights under copyright; economic rights, which allow the rights owner to derive financial reward from the use of his works by others; and moral rights, which protect the non-economic interests of the author, including the right to claim authorship of a work and the right to oppose changes to a work that could harm the creator's reputation. The economic rights can be assigned or licensed by the author, but the moral rights cannot.

In the majority of countries, including Sweden, copyright protection is obtained automatically without the need for registration. A number of countries have nonetheless a system in place to allow for the voluntary registration of works. Such voluntary registration systems can help solve disputes over ownership or creation, as well as facilitate financial transactions, sales, and the assignment or transfer of rights.

In most countries, the duration of copyright is dependent on the duration of the author's life. After he or she dies, the copyright is still valid for at least 50 more years. In most countries, like in Sweden, the term is even longer: 70 years after the author's death.

Further information may be obtained, e.g., at:

www.prv.se (patents, trademarks, designs, copyright)

www.wipo.int (patents, trademarks, designs, copyright)

www.epo.org (patents)

https://euipo.europa.eu (trademarks, designs)

www.uspto.gov (patents, trademarks)

This page should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Reasonable efforts have been used in collecting, preparing and providing the information in this document, but we do not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, completeness, adequacy or currency of the information presented herein. The content of this page is for general purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer and/or patent attorney concerning your situation and any specific legal questions you might have.

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