Problems with Patents
The 2011 International Property Rights Index, published by Property Rights Alliance, ranked Poland 53rd in the property rights protection ranking, featuring a total of 125 countries. This appears to be not a bad position — using the bike racing terms, we are in the peloton. It is worth noting, though, that our neighbours — the Czech Republic and Lithuania — are ahead of us.
Poland also lags behind countries like Botswana, Uruguay and Costa Rica. The situation looks even worse when it comes to the protection of physical property rights — in this category Poland ranked 98, reaching the same level as Ukraine, Ethiopia and Madagascar. We appear to be better at the protection of intellectual property rights — here we were ranked 34th. This proves that Poland is gradually becoming a patent desert, if it hasn’t become one yet. In 2009, only 3.5 thousand inventions and utility models were submitted to the Patent Office of the Republic of Poland (of which app. 2000 have been patented). A similar number of applications were submitted last year. This shows that, even though Poland has a relatively big innovation potential, it doesn’t make the most of it, in contrast with the developed western economies, where the number of new technical solutions submitted for patent protection is much higher.
Large part of the blame for the situation falls on entrepreneurs, who consciously don’t take measures to protect their intellectual property (inventions and technologies). According to numerous researches (for example A Review of Research on Enterprise Innovation, published by the Institute for Market Economics), the main reasons behind the lack of entrepreneurs’ interest in patents and other forms of invention protection are quick changes in the modern technology (products and technologies become outdated within just a few years), the time-consuming patenting process, complicated procedures, costs and the lack of possibility to claim their rights, particularly in the IT sector (only 4% of researched ICT companies point to the existence of effective intellectual property protection mechanisms). In short, many entrepreneurs believe that obtaining a patent isn’t worth the candle. The authors of the researches also stress that the Polish business, particularly the SME sector, shows little awareness of the intellectual property protection issues. This means that some of the barriers pointed out by entrepreneurs exist only in their imagination and/or mentality.
According to dr. Alicja Adamczak, President of the Patent Office of the Republic of Poland, the main obstacle in using the intellectual and industrial property protection potential is, unfortunately, the lack of sound knowledge and awareness of the problem among entrepreneurs and managerial staff. “In many cases, the issues related to industrial property management may be critical for the success of an entire business venture and must be taken into account already at the preliminary stage of planning business activities. These may include issues related to determining the directions of a company’s development, purchasing licenses, obtaining exclusive rights to a trade mark, evaluating the likelihood of infringing upon somebody’s rights or analyzing the offer of business partners with regard to proper protection of intangible assets and their valuation. An entrepreneur should make an in-depth analysis of the intellectual property issues already at the stage of drawing up a business plan” – says Alicja Adamczak. However, before entrepreneurs move to the “in-depth analysis” stage, they should first gain the basic knowledge related to the patent protection.
Why Bother About a Patent?
The issues of intellectual and industrial property, patent law and industrial design protection are of key importance in today’s economy. Patents, licenses and copyrights facilitate and accelerate a company’s development, allowing it to enter a higher, global level of operation. They can also account for an important part of its income. The issue of increasing a company’s income through a profitable use of protected industrial property — for example by means of a good licensing policy — is very important, but often neglected by entrepreneurs, who are discouraged by the patent protection costs and fail to notice the potential profits resulting therefrom. Alicja Adamczak says that “Obtaining exclusive rights, their maintenance and enforcement, is connected with certain costs. On the other hand, it creates benefits and constitutes an important asset.” A patent holder enjoys the exclusive right to use a patented invention for making profits and for using it for professional purposes, in other words, he enjoys a monopoly — limited in time, but still a monopoly — to use a given solution, profits from granting licenses, and gives a company a competitive advantage. However, in order to use this potential, one needs to define a company patent strategy, which is as important as financial, management, marketing or development strategies. “Conscious investment in the protection of industrial property allows to eliminate randomness in making decisions regarding the key company assets” – says dr. Alicja Adamczak.