Sweden and Iceland are keen to work with other Nordic offices to boost IP access

A number of summit attendees took part in a Legal IQ survey conducted ahead of its Nordic IPR Summit 2015, which found that monetising IP and legislative reform are the most common challenges for owners in the region.

The surveyed attendees also said that turning IP into a profitable business is integral for success, with 98 percent agreeing with the statement.

According to the surveyed participants, the region’s specialism has moved past heavy technology IPR towards consumer IPR, And the Nordics are ‘considerably ahead’ of global competitors.

What the patents are saying

How are these opinions reflected in patent filings and grants? Sweden Patent and Registration Office (SPRO) statistics show that a total of 3,905 applications were pending at the agency as of 1 January, 84 of which were for telecommunication; 151 were for electronics; and 198 were for electricity and semiconductors.

These numbers indicate that filers of Swedish patent filers are moving towards granting the desires of consumers for goods such as smartphones and tablets.

The Icelandic Patent and trademarks Office (IPTO), meanwhile, had a slow 2014, recording 49 national patent applications while granting 54.

Some 30 percent of pending applications were in pharmaceuticals and 25 percent were in chemistry. According to an IPTO spokesperson, the rest were “fairly divided” between electricity, physics, mechanical engineering, textiles and paper.

While Iceland’s figures are lower than those of Sweden, the number of applications is higher than 2012 and 2013, which the IPTO deems is related to “positive economic circumstances”. The IPTO also has 300 applications currently pending.

The IPTO is keen to point out that the number of applications received in 2014 is partly down to novelty searches. It accepts novelty searches that have been carried out by a corresponding authority in another country or by an international institution.

“In cases where such searches are being carried out by another Nordic office or the European Patent Office, the office usually chooses to not perform its own search,” explained the spokesperson. This means that delays at other offices inevitably filter through into Iceland.

The IPTO plans to follow such searches more closely and aims to “act as soon as decisions have been made” in a bid to speed the process up.

“Because of this we have seen the number of applications go down by about 150 in the last three years.”

Delays at IP offices are nothing new, with many suffering from a backlog in patent applications—the situation is similar in Sweden. A spokesperson for the SPRO said: “We are continuously working to achieve our service commitments.”

“In 85 percent of all national patent applications, a final decision will be delivered within 24 months. In 100 of all applications, a final decision will be delivered within 36 months.”

The SPRO is aiming high, but there are 456 national applications still waiting to be assessed.

The Swedish agency believes that “harmonisation” is the best way to improve the application process and quality in the Nordic region.

Iceland agreed that without compromising the quality of the patents or assessment, Nordic IP offices should work together by exchanging views on the processes in each office and learning from each other to streamline the process.

The future

In light of working together, the EU unitary patent system looms. It was billed to come into force at the beginning of 2016, but disagreements over rules and procedures relating to the court that will oversee the system are likely to delay implementation of Europe’s third-tier of patent protection.

In preparation for the unitary patent system, a spokesperson for the SPRO said the office has been working “actively” on the establishment and implementation of both the unitary patent and the United Patent Court.

“We continue to involve ourselves in this work actively. We believe that the European patent, the unitary patent and the national system/rights complement each other and will continue to be important for different categories of applicants and for different purposes.”

“Together with the Patent Cooperation Treaty system, they will provide options for the applicants which can be used to optimise and save costs for applicants depending on needs and strategic considerations.”

Iceland, on the other hand, stands outside of the EU and so, at least for now, will not be included as a country in which a unitary patent has effect.

The unified patent system will neither “affect national nor European validation procedures”, the office explains.

“It will continue to be necessary to validate European patents separately in Iceland,” added the spokesperson.

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