General information about patents
Patents are sometimes considered as a contract between the applicant and society. The applicant is interested in benefiting (personally) from his invention. Society is interested in
- encouraging innovation so that better products can be made and better production methods can be used for the benefit of all;
- protecting new innovative companies so that they can compete with large established companies, in order to maintain a competitive economy;
- finding out the details of new inventions so that other engineers and scientists can further improve them;
- promoting technology transfer (i.e. from universities to industry).
So both parties are interested in a contract that grants protection to innovators (thereby also increasing the motivation to innovate) in exchange for disclosure of the invention. This social contract is institutionalised in the form of patent law.
For an invention to be patented, it must usually be
- new to the world (i.e. not available to the public anywhere in the world)
- inventive (i.e. not an “obvious” solution), and
- susceptible to industrial application
Applicants benefit from the patent system because they are granted the right to exclude others from commercially exploiting the invention. These rights are transferable.
Patents give patent owners the right to prevent others from making, using or selling the invention in the country for which the patent was granted, for a limited time. Patent owners can choose to license their invention to others or to allow everybody to use the invention for free.
For example, many important technologies, such as CDs, DVDs, mobile phone technology and digital TV, are covered by numerous individual patents that companies license to each other (cross-licensing).
The owner of the invention has an exclusive right to exploit the solution of the invention, but the period and the territorial validity of patent protection are not unlimited. The protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years from the filing date of the application.
Before applying for a patent, it is advisable to carry out a patent search to check if the invention wasn’t commercially made, used, distributed, imported or sold by others without the inventor’s consent, as in such cases the invention may no longer be patentable in that form.
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 national route generally leads to national rights which confer protection of differing extents.
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.
National patents are valid just for one country. The maintenance, the pricing and the length of the protection are also depends on the territory where the patent is filed. The protection is always granted for a limited period, generally 20 years from the filing date of the application.
In Hungary patents enjoy protection for 20 years. The maintenance is due from the first year, but only need to be paid after the publication. The publication of the Hungarian search report may follow or may concur with the publication of the application. The substantive examination should be requested within 6 months after the publication of the search report.
Advantages of national patents
- Patents provide you with an exclusive right
- Positive image for your enterprise
- Opportunity to license or sell the invention
- Return on investments
- Increase in negotiating power
International Patent applications – PCT
The International Patent system or PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) is an international treaty with 151 contracting States. The PCT makes it possible to seek patent protection for an invention simultaneously in a large number of countries by filing a single “international” patent application in one language instead of filing several separate national or regional patent applications. The granting of patents remains under the control of the national or regional patent Offices in what is called the “national phase”. So the PCT consist of two parts: the international and the national phase. The PCT can file with a national or regional patent Office or World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), complying with the PCT formality requirements, in one language, and you pay one set of fees.
At the beginning of the international phase an international search report (ISR) is issued automatically, it may have an influence on whether your invention is patentable, and establishes a written opinion on your invention’s potential patentability. As soon as possible after the expiration of 18 months from the earliest filing date, the content of your international application is disclosed to the world, after which point the National phase can begin. At the national phase, usually between 18-30 months from the earliest filing date of your initial application, from which you claim priority, you start to pursue the grant of your patents directly from the national (or regional) patent Offices of the countries in which you want to obtain them. The national phase is similar to the process of the new filing.
- The validation process can run in one language
- The validation process can finish anytime
- Delaying legal costs of filing applications in multiple countries.
- Under the PCT filing the applicant is issued an international search report (ISR) which help in the sales of the invention and guide how the invention is patentable
- Delaying national patent prosecutions provides more time to determine the value of the invention to the applicant, the strength of commercial demand abroad, which claims in a patent application are likely to be patentable, which countries are most attractive for pursuing patent protection and the likelihood of obtaining a patent grant.
- 148 contracting States
- One application, one language, one procedure
- “A la carte” market by possibility of excluding countries from designation
- Cost effective when protection is sought in at least four contracting states
- Substantive examination
Unitary patent protection will make it possible for inventors (individuals, companies or institutions) to protect their invention in 26 European Union countries by submitting a single patent application. After the patent is granted, there will be no need to validate it in each country.
Unitary patent protection will make the existing European system simpler and less expensive for inventors. It will end complex validation requirements and drastically limit expensive translation requirements in participating countries. Consequently, it is expected to stimulate research, development and investment in innovation, helping to boost growth in the EU.
Unitary patent protection will also protect inventions better than the current system. Due to the prohibitive costs involved in the national validation of European patents, many inventors currently only patent their inventions in a handful of countries. This makes inventions less valuable as the lack of protection in other countries allows them to be copied more easily.
The unitary patent or European patent with unitary effect is an another option for users besides already-existing national patents and classical European patents. A unitary patent is a European patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) under the provisions of the European Patent Convention to which unitary effect for the territory of the 26 participating States is given after grant, at the patentee’s request. The unitary patent thus does not affect the EPO’s day-to-day search, examination and granting work.
- Not have to be validated in each country, and thus translation and administrative costs are reduced.
- If someone is infringing the patent, you can get a preliminary injunction in 25 countries at once which is very effective and powerful.
- Short deadlines and fast handling will provide effective judicial proceedings.
In some countries, a utility model system provides protection of so-called “minor inventions” through a system similar to the patent system. In its basic definition, which may vary from one country (where such protection is available) to another, a utility model is similar to a patent. Recognizing that minor improvements of existing products, which does not fulfill the patentability requirements, may have an important role in a local innovation system, utility models protect such inventions through granting an exclusive right, which allows the right holder to prevent others from commercially using the protected invention, without his authorization, for a limited period of time.
Every new idea can enjoy protection as a utility model as long as it applies to the formation, structure or arrangement of an object and also if it involves an inventive activity and are susceptible of industrial application. Novelty is not interpreted as an absolute worldwide term. Only written description and domestical use are comprised in the state of the art. In case of successful application the protection is granted from the date of filing.
The length of the protection depends on the country, it can endure from 6-15 years.
- The requirements for acquiring a utility model are less stringent than for patents.
- The term of protection for utility models is shorter than for patents and varies from country to country.
- In most countries where utility model protection is available, patent offices do not examine applications as to substance prior to registration. This means that the registration process is often significantly simpler and faster, taking, on average, six months.
- Utility models are much cheaper to obtain and to maintain.
- In some countries, utility model protection can only be obtained for certain fields of technology and only for products but not for processes.