Intellectual property protection needs more attention

THE PRE-1989 totalitarian regime, during which public assets were deemed to belong to all and intellectual property was not understood as private property, has left its traces on Slovaks’ perception of intellectual property. But although there is still a lot of work to be done, the situation is improving. Greater focus by Slovakia on developing a knowledge-based economy could further enhance the situation.

THE PRE-1989 totalitarian regime, during which public assets were deemed to belong to all and intellectual property was not understood as private property, has left its traces on Slovaks’ perception of intellectual property. But although there is still a lot of work to be done, the situation is improving. Greater focus by Slovakia on developing a knowledge-based economy could further enhance the situation.

“Awareness among the Slovak public about industrial rights is still not at the required level,” Július Šípoš, spokesperson of the Industrial Property Office (IPO) of the Slovak Republic, told The Slovak Spectator. “This lower awareness perhaps stems from history, when the term intellectual property actually did not exist. During the previous regime all assets produced belonged to all and intellectual property was not understood as private property; nor was it understood that the value of a trademark can be several times higher than the tangible assets of a company.”

Nevertheless, Šípoš believes that it is wrong to say that things are not improving, because people involved in inventing, or developing new technological solutions or designs, and those who want to protect names linked to their goods or services know how important protection of intellectual property is. Such people also know how to go about protecting their intellectual property or are interested in the subject and frequently engage patent attorneys.

“But there are also many cases where people become more closely interested in the protection of intellectual property only after they realise that their rights are endangered or that somebody is violating them,” said Šípoš.

Firms are also starting to realise to a greater extent the importance of protection of intellectual property.

“Effective management of intellectual property increases competitiveness and results in a strategic advantage,” said Šípoš. “But there are still a lot of people ignoring the legal protection of their ideas. However, this has a wider context as there are also problems in Slovakia with enforcement of rights. Enforcing protection in a legal way in Slovakia is not only time-consuming but also expensive.”

Šípoš believes that a coordinated attitude by more involved institutions may help increase Slovaks’ awareness about protection of intellectual property. He would welcome more attention being paid to the issue of intellectual property as early as secondary-school level and for it to become part of the curriculum at schools.

“It is also necessary to hope that more original solutions deserving legal protection might be developed in Slovakia,” said Šípoš. “So far, we have instead imported and realised good ideas from abroad. The area of science, research and development has been underfed in Slovakia for a long time. In early December 2009 the number of valid patents in Slovakia exceeded the magic limit of 10,000; alas, Slovak subjects account for only 3.5 percent of these, or 353 patents. This should be no small matter for all those who decide on the future of Slovakia, its transition to a knowledge-based society and an economy based on new technologies with higher added value.”

The IPO has registered over 50,000 names as trademarks, of which about one half belong to Slovak owners. The oldest trademark still valid in Slovakia is Acetopyrin, which was inscribed in the official register on July 26, 1900. Its owner is Zentiva, a pharmaceutical company. The Harmanec 1829 trademark registered on December 17, 1910, is the second oldest valid trademark in Slovakia, followed by Pinosol from August 5, 1913, also held by Zentiva.

In Slovakia trademarks create the most numerous group with Slovakia’s Industrial Property Office.

“This is logical because the number of entrepreneurs in the market economy has been increasing and they want to protect their products and services,” said Šípoš. “For the last few years, IPO has been receiving about 3,000 applications from local subjects and about 1,000 applications from foreign subjects annually. In 2009, certainly due in part to the influence of the global economic downturn, we have registered a 23-percent decline in trademark applications. In the design category applications fell by 20 percent.”

The number of patent applications increased by almost 7 percent in 2009, to 176, while the number of applications for utility models remained at the previous year’s level in Slovakia, the SITA newswire wrote.

Darina Kyliánová, the director of IPO, believes that the crisis is an opportunity to activate the creative potential of companies and their best brains, SITA wrote. The crisis has changed the established rules and given new projects a chance. Only those who innovate, who try to come to the market with something new, economical, and friendly not only to the pockets of customers but also to the environment, and who also get their innovative solution legally protected can succeed in the highly competitive marketplace, according to Kyliánová.

Slovakia’s entry into the EU in May 2004 did not make any big change in the number of trademark applications. But applications for patents registered a significant change.

“Slovakia had already joined the European Patent Convention on July 1, 2002, which meant that the European doors to Slovakia’s Industrial Property Office opened 22 months earlier; and foreign applicants still prefer the opportunity to protect their inventions through a European patent granted by the European Patent Office in Munich,” said Šípoš. “On the other hand, the number of European patents with a designation for Slovakia has been increasing in the registers of our office. Foreign applicants are interested in protecting their inventions in Slovakia.”


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