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Few patents issued to Slovaks

WHILE patent disputes and even high-stakes business wars over intellectual property are a regular occurrence outside Slovakia, the number of patent applications routinely filed by Slovaks is very low. The Hospodárske Noviny daily wrote last October that less than 200 patent applications are filed in Slovakia each year, based on data from the country’s Industrial Property Office, and only a fifth of the applications end up being successful.

WHILE patent disputes and even high-stakes business wars over intellectual property are a regular occurrence outside Slovakia, the number of patent applications routinely filed by Slovaks is very low. The Hospodárske Noviny daily wrote last October that less than 200 patent applications are filed in Slovakia each year, based on data from the country’s Industrial Property Office, and only a fifth of the applications end up being successful.

“From a long-term point of view this is not very much to be proud of,” said Darina Kyliánová, the head of the Industrial Property Office, as quoted by the daily.

Currently there are active and valid over 11,000 patents in Slovakia but less than 5 percent of them are owned by Slovaks, Hospodárske Noviny wrote, and the number of patent applications submitted by Slovaks decreased by 3 percent in 2011.

Ján Cvengroš from the Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology at the Slovak University of Technology believes this low level of activity stems from scepticism about intellectual property protection in Slovakia and the high cost of protecting an idea.

“Currently, the opinion prevails to not protect an invention,” Cvengroš stated, as quoted by the daily, adding that enforcing one’s intellectual property rights, especially in Slovakia, is essentially impossible.

Cvengroš added that if a Slovak inventor wants to protect his or her invention globally, it costs millions of euros, a sum that Slovak research institutions or individual inventors cannot afford. Cvengroš also commented that it is often more convenient for companies to use someone else’s proven know-how.

But Vladimír Lukáč, director general of the Etop Trading company does not view taking a solution from abroad as always being the best approach.

“Not everything from abroad is always the best,” Lukáč stated, as quoted by the daily. His company’s inventions have led it to be a subcontractor to companies such as Nokian, Kia, and Emerson Electric.

The low number of Slovak patent applications and approved patents is only one of several problems that Slovakia faces in the area of innovation, according to Hospodárske Noviny, writing that even if an inventor is successful in getting a patent, the chance of turning that patent into a commercial success is minimal.

“If somebody arrives with something new and does not have support from a well-established company, than it is misery,” Jaroslav Kuracina from Grand Power, a producer of guns based in Banská Bystrica, told the daily when recalling the startup of his business. “The bank will laugh at you and firms will politely show you out.”

Slovak inventors said government vision statements and programmes do not lead to new inventions.
“Even many-pages-long innovation strategies do not help to push through inventions,” stated Ľubomír Kurpel, an inventor at Trenčín-based company Konštrukta Industry, based on his personal experience.

The daily noted that the histories of Grand Power and Konštrukta Industry serve as ‘exceptions proving the general rule’ because both companies have managed to become established in the market. Grand Power employs 60 people and exports its guns to tens of countries, including Thailand and the Philippines. Companies in the machinery industry in Japan and the USA use patents owned by Kurpel.

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