Patents

What is a patent?

A patent is a right to prohibit granted by a patent authority, by means of which others can be prohibited from using an invention commercially. The right to prohibit is granted for a fixed term (20 years in most countries) and region (a specific country or area).

What is patentable?

An industrially manufactured or used device, product, method or use which is new and inventive (differs from the previously known) is patentable. Computer software combined with a technical application, biological material containing genetic information, or a microbiological method are also patentable. The patent authority uses its discretionary power in determining whether the level of inventiveness is sufficient, that is, whether the invention differs sufficiently from what is previously known, or whether the invention (despite is novelty) belongs within the scope of the normal skills of a professional.

Why patent?

Patenting is an efficient way of protecting inventions and the results of product development from illicit copying by competitors. Rapid product development and concealment of production methods also provide protection to a degree, but these methods are often inapplicable or insufficient, making patenting the only viable form of protection. Patenting is also significant in securing one’s freedom to operate.

In patenting, the starting point is always to describe the invention in as much detail as possible, using drawings wherever possible. At least one example of the invention must be described completely and in full detail. The patent laws of all countries include a stipulation according to which the invention must be described in such a way that a skilled person is able to use the invention on the basis of the description. The manufacture and use of the invention must be possible solely by following the instructions given in the patent application, without the skilled person having to invent or design more. Therefore, describing the aims of the invention and the general inventive idea does not suffice. Occasionally, an inventor only wishes to reveal these aspects, believing that this will provide a more extensive scope of protection. However, the detailed nature of the specification and drawings of the invention does not limit the scope of patent protection, since patent protection is determined by the claims.

When an invention is described for the purpose of drawing up a patent application, the following questions should be answered in as much detail as possible:
What is the specific problem to which the invention provides a solution? Define the problem in such a way that it cannot be solved by means of the prior art.
If the problem field as such is old, how have the problems in question been solved previously? What are the disadvantages of the known solutions?
How is the problem solved by means of the invention? What is essential about the invention? What are the advantages achieved by means of the invention?
Which embodiment (example) of the invention is considered best? Describe a perfect functioning solution of the invention in as much detail as possible.
Are there other embodiments or manners of implementing the invention? Describe them briefly.

When an inventor or patent applicant describes the invention by answering the above questions, a patent attorney will be able to draw up the patent application on the basis of these answers. The same may obviously also be done by means of a discussion between the inventor/applicant and the patent attorney.

Minimum requirements for filing a patent application in Finland
The minimum requirements for filing a patent application in Finland and obtaining a filing date are:

  • It is apparent from the application that it is a patent application
  • The application contains information on who the applicant is or how the applicant may be contacted
  • The documents filed in conjunction with the application contain such information that may be considered as a description or drawing, or the application contains a reference to an earlier made patent or utility model application and the applicant has provided such application’s particulars of the filing date, application number and the patent authority with which this earlier application was filed. If the application does not include the above-mentioned particulars, the applicant is given an invitation to correct the deficiencies within a period of two months. If the deficiencies are not corrected within this period or the applicant could not be contacted, the application will be considered to have never been filed. On the other hand, if the applicant corrects the deficiencies in the application, the date when all the above-mentioned deficiencies have been corrected will become the filing date.

The following are unpatentable in Finland:

  • discoveries, scientific theories or mathematic methods
  • aestetic discoveries
  • computer programs, as such
  • schemes, rules or methods for performing mental acts
  • playing games or doing business
  • presentation of information
  • methods for surgical or therapeutic treatment or diagnostic methods (products used in these methods are, however, patentable)

For validation of a European patent in Finland, a translation of the patent specification into Finnish must be filed within 3 months after the date on which the mention of grant is published in the European Patent Bulletin. The translation must be certified by the patentee or his representative. The number of the European patent and the name and address of the patent proprietor must accompany the translation. The translation must be accompanied by a copy of the drawings in the European patent specification even where there is no textual matter. Finland has ratified the London Agreement and it entered into force on November 1, 2011. The London Agreement applies to European patents in respect of which the mention of grant was published in the European Patent Bulletin on or after November 1, 2011. For such a European patent only a translation of the claims into Finnish need to be filed in a case that the description of the European patent specification is in English. If the description of the European patent specification is in German or French, in addition to a translation of the claims into Finnish, also a translation of the description, including possible figures, into English or Finnish need to be filed. If the patentee’s own language is Swedish, said translations may be in the Swedish language.

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Juha Lempinen
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