IP Protection Alternatives you need to know

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The realm of Intellectual Property is studded with a diversity of protection options to suit various situations. While the most common and widely used are trademarks, patents, and copyrights, several lesser-known IP protection alternatives are just as useful and effective. This article is a handbook to practical knowledge of these lesser-used IP rights and answers questions related to what IP Protections are

Table of Contents

Provisional Patents

Provisional patents were introduced by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 1995. The PPA renders IP protections to an invention for a 12-month period prior to the filing of a formal patent. It is considered a lower cost first filing that does not require any formal patent claim, oath, or declaration. A prior art disclosure is also not essential when applying for a provisional patent. Once a provisional patent is obtained, it allows for usage of the term ‘Patent Pending’ to be applied with the description. These patents are only published domestically. 

Provisional patents are useful as they help buy time and establish prior art. Inventions take a long time to attain the intended stage. A provisional patent offers a secure window of 1 year where you can continue to work on the invention and make additional versions without stressing about someone else stealing your ideas and obtaining a patent.  

Interim Protections 

A number of stopgap IP protections are available in countries outside the USA for those looking to safeguard IP. The utility model option is one such arrangement offered by the following EU member countries: 

  • Greece 
  • Finland 
  • Spain 
  • Portugal 
  • Slovakia 
  • Germany 
  • France 
  • Italy 
  • Estonia 
  • Austria 
  • Poland 
  • Bulgaria 
  • Czech Republic 
  • Ireland 

A utility model protects minor inventions through a system that is similar to patents. It has less stringent requirements and easier procedures but is valid for shorter periods of time (6-10 years). The terms and conditions of the utility model, including eligibility, duration, etc., vary from country to country. The objective of utility models is to foster creativity by offering recognition and exclusive rights to inventors. The system is especially favourable for local or minor innovations by small businesses.  

Design Rights

Blueprints of a design that has the future potential can be protected under Design Rights in the EU. They protect the appearance of a part or whole of the product. Two categories of design rights are offered by The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO): 

Domain Names 

A domain name links a physical IP address on the internet to a name. They are unique to your business and help the customer identify you online. Therefore, it is crucial that you choose a name that’s easy to remember and describes your business. These may be registered for a year or up to 10 years and can be renewed periodically. The Anti cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act handles the matter of trademark infringement in domain names.

Database Rights

A database, according to the legislation, is “a collection of independent works, data, or other items that are structured in a systematic or methodical way and are individually accessible by electronic means.” or other means.” It is a broad definition that covers everything from mailing lists to phone numbers. If a set of data is within the definition of a database and has been accrued by making a sizeable investment, then it is eligible for protection under Database Rights.  

Database Rights are a sui generis form of intellectual property protection that was introduced in 1996. They enable the owner to prevent others from extracting or utilizing their database. Database Rights are valid for a period of 15 years but if the data is dynamic these rights can last for an indefinite time.  

Pharmaceutical Patents 

Under usual circumstances, a pharma product would be patented like any other patent. Product patents, process patents, product-by-process patents, and formulation patents are some of the categories that are available for filing a pharma patent. However, these are other auxiliary options like the supplemental protection certificates offered by the EU and Australia. These certificates can be used to extend the pharmaceutical patent rights for an additional five years from the mandated twenty.  

There is also the provision of “second medical indications” i.e., new uses of a drug to treat conditions other than the intended usage. The European Patent Office (EPO) has made patent protection for new uses available since the 1908s. 

Plant Varieties 

Plant patents are granted by the USPTO for new and distinctive plants that have been asexually produced. Tuber propagated plants and plants found in an uncultivated state are not eligible for plant patents. They are valid for a period of twenty years. 

In the EU, there is a system of granting a Community Plant Variety Right (CPVR) which is valid throughout the European Community. It is granted to new, distinct, and uniform varieties. Most plant species are eligible for a 25-year validity while others can be protected for a period of 30 years.  

Conclusion

Once you are ready with an invention, due diligence is key to deciding the method of IP protection. Weigh the pros and cons of all available options carefully before you decide on the one that’s best for your product. Consulting with specialized firms is recommended as you can benefit from their expertise and knowledge on the subject. They can offer up-to-date guidance on the most effective IP protection your invention can avail.  

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