Patents in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia (Q&A)
Registering your invention seems like a long and complicated process. Taken into account the administrative burden and patenting costs, inventors often ask “is it really worth it”? Absolutely! In this article we cover the most common questions and myths about patents to show you how patenting can benefit or even save your business.
Is patent registering really worth it?
Companies usually focus on innovation or perfecting their existing product. However, while concentrating on satisfaction of their customers and sales, companies usually forget to protect their own rights. Even though the company which has invented a certain product or process feels like the owner of the invention, in a legal sense, this is not exactly true.
Let’s presume a company has invented a new product but did not patent it. If a competitor finds out how the invention works and starts manufacturing, and selling the same product, the original inventor cannot prohibit the competitor from doing so. This is true because protection of inventions, unlike copyright, is not automatic. Only when invention is registered, i.e. patented, the owner has the right to prohibit third parties from using it.
What are other advantages to patenting?
Patent owners can prevent others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing products that infringe their patents. Essentially, if a company owns a patent, it can exclude everybody from commercially using the invention protected by the patent. This rule also applies to other inventors who independently make the same invention afterwards.
Patenting your invention does not mean that you only prohibit others from using it. There are many was to use your patent. You can “rent” your patent – allow others to use it for a certain fee. If you do not want to commercialize your invention or do not have funds for it, you can sell the exclusive right to use the invention to somebody else. You can exchange licences with other companies, that way your company and your competitor can use each other’s patent without infringing them and without the need to pay fees. Both companies can benefit from this exchange, in fact this is how most business collaborations start.
Does a patent last a lifetime?
No, patents give exclusive right to use the invention for maximum 20 years.
What can I patent? Can I patent my company’s slogan?
You can patent an invention which has an industrial application and does not interfere with morality or public order. It shall be stressed that an invention shall be new, meaning that it must not be publicly disclosed prior to the filing of the patent application. Commercializing the invention means disclosing it, so prior to filing patent application the company shall refrain from integrating the invention into products offered for customers. The invention shall also be “inventive”, meaning that it should not be an obvious solution to a problem.
You cannot patent anything that is not an invention. For example, a company’s slogan is considered copyright, it is already protected by a different branch of law and therefore it cannot be patented.
Each country has its own regulations to what can be patented. The most common exclusions are: ideas, concepts, discoveries, computer programs as such, business methods, teaching methods, diagnostic methods, and medical therapies.
I am still not convinced. I want to start manufacturing and selling my product now!
There are many dangers for not registering an invention and commercializing it right away. First of all, your competitors can find out how the invention works and patent it before you ever decide to do it. Even though you have funded the research, you may never get a right to sell the innovation or provide a licence for competitors to use it because another company filed for patent earlier.
My company is a small start-up, can I benefit from patenting our inventions?
Yes. It is a common myth that patents only benefit large corporations. In fact, patents can be successfully registered and used by small companies as well. If a start-up company focuses in niche product or innovation in niche market, it is crucial to protect its rights by patenting the inventions. Large corporations often operate in multiple markets and sell multiple types of products, therefore a large corporation could afford to lose one of its inventions. A start-up cannot. Small companies usually focus on one product, or even one detail in a certain product. If somebody copies its invention it can mean the end of business for the star-up.
I have registered a patent in Germany. Recently I have found out that my competitor is copying my invention and selling it in Latvia. Can I forbid the competitor from doing so? After all, I have already registered my invention.
In present day the market is highly globalised, which is highly beneficial for the businesses. With one click of a mouse your product can be sold to a customer which lives half-way around the world. However increased avaibalibity of world‘s market can mean more competitors and weaker protection of your inventions. It shall be stressed that patents are strictly territorial. Which means that you cannot take action against infringing products or processes in countries where you do not have patent rights.
Before you start commercializing the invention, it is a good idea to make a list of markets where you want to sell it. Then, you should register the invention in all of those markets or apply for European patent. You must wait for such infringing articles to cross the border into a country where you have rights before you can take action.